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February 14th 2018 print

Michael Galak

In Defence of Barnaby Joyce

Are the deputy prime minister's indiscretions worthy of the gallows? Methinks not. Does he deserve a reprimand? You bet. But to grind him to a dust, surely not! One needs the lupine instincts of an irredeemable political operator or an old-style Soviet commissar to bay so fast and loud for blood

barnabyThe spectacle of a national leader being forced into the humiliating disclosure of a profoundly personal episode in his private life prompted in me an uncomfortable flashback to one of the most bizarre rituals of the Soviet Union, my home before finding freedom and a new life in Australia.  Private? There was no such thing under the system I fled. Barnaby Joyce must be sharing much the same thought at the moment.

The voyeuristic and salaciously detailed public airing of a guilty couple’s creased and sweaty bed linen — how dare they succumb to erotic urges and rebel against Party discipline by enjoying an unsanctioned roll in the hay! — was the main attraction of otherwise tedious Communist Party meetings. The atmosphere at these, almost pornographic, gatherings was quite peculiar. In deference to other agenda items received with confected and pro forma enthusiasm, the baring of others’ scandalous affairs whipped those present to raptures of prurient curiosity. Shouts of “Details! Give us the details!” would fill the room as sexual improprieties and unorthodox liaisons were aired.

Public humiliation was the grim reward for private dalliances and indiscretions, the airing usually prompted by the wives of unfaithful husbands. Their accusations were underscored by the assumption that two people pursuing a relationship outside the State’s supervision were guilty not merely of libertine tendencies but of eroding the very foundation of the Soviet Union. After the torture of devastating humiliation, the illicit couple would be punished with demotion or expulsion, the female usually bearing the brunt of collectivist disdain. As for the male, publicly crushed and theatrically repentant, he would be returned to the mercies of his family, forever after knowing that his entire future within the system had come to depend on his wife raising no further complaints against him.

Given my memories of the old Soviet Union, let me say that the indecent haste with which the press and some of Barnaby Joyce’s own colleagues are attempting to hound a deputy prime minister out of his job, and quite possibly out of the Parliament itself, pose several simple questions, none of which has been answered.

Question one: Do we want  Australia’s political arena to replicate the Soviet Union’s Communist Party meetings and ring to the ritual humiliation of those engaging in unsanctioned relationships?

I hope such is not the case. But if it is, let us be consistent and demand further details, not merely about Joyce’s indiscretion but those of all the politicians who have put hotel rooms to nefarious purposes. If office desks were involved in illicit horizontalism, let us have those juicy details too.

Question two: Since when does the relationship between two consenting — the key word is “consenting” — adults figure in any civilised conversation about an individual’s fitness or otherwise to hold a job and fill a prominent position?

Some people might disagree with me, pointing out how Joyce was an adamant defender of the “family values”  during the recent same-sex marriage debate. Therefore, they argue, his personal actions make him a first-class hypocrite. Not in my book.  To accuse Joyce of hypocrisy in this regard is to willfully ignore the dividing line between his public and personal lives. Are all political leaders to be judged on what goes on behind closed doors? If so, Bob and Blanche, to name but two, might have an opinion worth hearing.

Question three: Since when are politicians required to emulate the lives of saints? The eternally pure and unfailingly chaste do exist, but it would it be absurd to suggest these pristine souls represent a majority. Why don’t we add to the sainthood the Joyce case suggests is a  prerequisite of office the insistence that all candidates be able to walk on water or cure leprosy with a prayer?

We have been further told that Joyce accepted free accommodation from a businessman who might be seen by some as hoping to extract favors in return. If this is true, Barnaby has to own up to this lapse of judgement and repay the accommodation cost from his personal funds. But is it a hanging offence? Methinks not. Does he deserve a reprimand?  You bet. But to grind him to a dust? To kick the man when he is down? To take  delight in his misery? One needs the lupine instincts of an irredeemable political operator to react that way.

We are also told that he wangled a job for his paramour as his mate’s staff member. Let me pose all you morally outraged men and women yet another question: did you ever do something, perhaps the bend the rules a little, for the one you love. No? Really? Hmmm … I believe every word you say.

Barnaby Joyce is human, with everything that implies. He is not perfect; nobody is. His personal life, which is none of anyone’s business, should not be dragged into the public arena for the delight and edification of voyeurs, wowsers and impatiently malevolent. Rather than a paragon of virtue, my preference is to have an ordinary human, with the frailties and shortcomings that condition implies, as a deputy prime minister. There is something to be said for a human whose foibles reflect those of the voters he represents.

The self-righteous, sanctimonious outrage expressed by some of Joyce’s colleagues and political opponents is not a valid reason to destroy a good man who has done a cracker of a good job for Australia. His recent re-election at a time when the scandal of his private life was common local knowledge suggests that I am not alone in my acceptance of the rather obvious fact that humans are imperfect by nature.

Who is without the fault? You, perhaps, but certainly not me.

Comments [28]

  1. Bran Dee says:

    Michael are we overthinking something that is really quite simple. The behavior is repugnant to many people as was the behavior of Jim Cairns, Bob Hawke, Bill Shorten, Bill Clinton, and John Kennedy.

    That Barnaby Joyce thought a public apology to his wife and daughters would make amends for his moving in with his mistress is to think that a bank robber could apologise to the bank for the hurt and insecurity whilst retaining the proceeds of the robbery.

  2. Peter OBrien says:

    Michael,

    the baying you hear against Joyce is not, primarily, on account of his infidelity but because of the cynical use of taxpayer funds to featherbed his mistress. As to doing a ‘cracker of a job’ for Australia you might like to check Judith Sloan’s take on this https://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/columnists/judith-sloan/wed-be-better-off-on-policy-without-barnaby-joyce/news-story/118b54a426f8046d16c1cddcc18041a3. Add to that, my own view that Joyce is on record as being a CAGW sceptic but has meekly kowtowed to the party line.

  3. ianl says:

    > ” … the cynical use of taxpayer funds to featherbed his mistress”

    Yes, that is truly cynical.

    > ” … Joyce is on record as being a CAGW sceptic but has meekly kowtowed to the party line”

    Yes, he’s spineless here, as accountable for the trainwreck as all other self-appointed “elites”. He’s frightened of Waffle’s sneaky treachery.

  4. en passant says:

    Michael,
    Exposing the hypocrisy and double dealing of Joyce is not the first step of replicating the Soviet Union, but the first step in draining the Swamp of a professional pollie-waffling hack. I liked his newsletters, but they ceased when the sweet hubris of Ministerial kool-aid had him toe the party line like every other apparatchik.

    As for his ‘jobs for the ‘boys” rort, that is a terminal crime in itself in my book.

  5. oldsailor says:

    Caesar’s missus comes to mind, if she were a bloke.

  6. John Michelmore says:

    The real problem with Joyce is what he hasn’t achieved in his previous role in Agriculture. He was the man who called for a Senate Inquiry into cattle transaction levies. Then when the Senate came up with a “cracker set” of recommendations he then did nothing to solve the problems in the cattle and red meat industry. In my mind he’s a failure. It is now probable that he was completely distracted from the government role he should have been carrying out. He wasted millions of tax payer money and individuals money in providing and evaluating the submissions to the Senate Inquiry; as a result I have no sympathy for him irrespective of the way the chickens come home to roost. The Nationals could have achieved much, yet they achieve so little in coalition.

  7. mags of Queensland says:

    If Barnaby Joyce had handled the situation better we wouldn’t be having this conversation. He could have swapped with another colleague, thereby negating the ” jobs for the boys” claim. Secondly, if he had fired her there would be an uproar for his taking her means of livelihood away. Thirdly,has anyone considered that he still has to support his wife and children, pay the mortgage etc. That would leave a very big hole in his salary. Any man who has gone through a similar scenario knows what that is.

    There has been so much moralizing from those with the least right to do so. Their behaviour is not just shaming Barnaby Joyce but liling humiliation on his family. Disgusting.

    • ianl says:

      > ” … He could have swapped with another colleague”

      Swapped what, where, who ?

      The only “moral” here is that of theft by featherbedding his mistress. All your straw men won’t cut it against that.

      I don’t care where he drops his shoes but he cannot sneak tax money to ease over the problems this may cause.

  8. Jody says:

    I’ve seen that now-infamous photo of Joyce staring at the crossed legs of his paramour, skirt so short it left little to the imagination. The point of this comment is to say to women, “for god’s sake develop some modesty so that the Sheik can be proven wrong about the cat and the meat”.

  9. Ken Harris says:

    Leave moral judgements out of it for the moment. Deal with them as a separate matter.

    He’s a pollie so judge him as a pollie.

    He delivered votes for the Nats and, therefore, to the Coalition, by spruiking up family values, conservative philosophy and Christian morals.

    It’s unlikely that voters swayed by his eloquence thought he was saying that giving the flick to the missus and the kids after 24 years of married life was OK.

    It’s also unlikely that they thought he was saying that screwing the hired help was OK.

    Putting both together, it is extremely unlikely–the odds of a a meteorite hitting the Earth in the next 30 minutes unlikely– that they thought he meant that dumping the missus and the kids to shack up with the pregnant hired help could, in any way, shape or form, be given a tick.

    He can no longer carry out his essential function as a pollie, namely delivering lots of votes from the bush. He has no credibility anymore as a spokesman for conservative values. He’ll get booed off the stump as soon as he opens his mouth.

    The crisis will probably be confined to the Nats, though. The Libs gave up conservative values when M Turnbull took over. They have no brand name left to trash.

    The Nats had a respectable image until recent days. They can now merge with the LiIbs without any risk to their reputation.

    Now you can argue about morality.

    • Cicero says:

      Exactly so Ken. There is no morality argument so far as the Libs and Nats are concerned. Barnaby delivered the votes at the by-election but has now become a massive political liability. He is therefore going to be walking the plank soon.

  10. Homer Sapien says:

    I’m afraid, dear Michael, this sordid story has more to do with old Rome than the former Soviet Union and we all know the outcome of that.

  11. necessityofchoice says:

    What reveals the real depth of cynicism in this imbroglio is that two thirds of Nationals MPs are backing Barnaby to get over the baby bump job rorting simply because the conservative electorate are so shallow, they will move on to the next cause celebre and Barnaby can just resume his vote winning ways.
    Man, I hope they are wrong.

  12. Warty says:

    Just thinking: so many of those in the media casting stones at Joyce voted ‘Yes’ with regards to SSM. In the age of Postmodernism and moral relativism this may seem to have been inevitable, but Barnaby is a conservative glowing in the aftermath of a resounding New England by election win. On those grounds alone he is fodder.
    Now the alleged cynical use of ‘tax payer funds’ and Labor and the Greens are making much of this, as are some of our esteemed Quadrant readers . . . why the hell aren’t conservatives making a song and dance about Shorten’s promise to pay ‘stolen generation’ Aboriginals $75,000 dollars each for their imagined suffering? So, we wouldn’t want to ask them a few pertinent questions about the circumstance surrounding their being abducted, because that would bring back the full force of the original trauma, now wouldn’t it?
    Can we dispense with the baloney about the cynical use of tax payer funds, because it really is a lot of cods wallop.

    • Peter OBrien says:

      Just because Labor and the Greens are profligate and cynical with the waste of taxpayers money, doesn’t mean we should excuse it in the Coalition. I was interested to watch Andrew Bolt interview DeAnne Kelly on this topic. Her view was that it came within the existing staff allocation so no extra money was spent. No thought as to was it well spent and, tellingly, very much in the mindset that, once appropriated, this was their money to spend as they saw fit.

      • Warty says:

        It is not a matter of excusing it, the point was about both the hypocrisy and the days and days of hysteria over the issue.
        At the heart of it all is the moral aspect, which is being used to score political points. If you take note of question time and the on-going probes coming out of Labor, you can see my point, particularly with an equally hot potato in Labor’s citizen issues. There are nine articles both on and directly related to Barnaby Joyce in the more conservative The Australian today, in addition to an erectile dysfunction cartoon, and this is a week after the story first broke in the Daily Telegraph. What does this say about us?

  13. Bill Martin says:

    The tone of the above comments, with the exception of Warty’s, is most disappointing, unless, of course, all the commenters are “eternally pure and unfailingly chaste”, to quote Michael. In case they are not, they should just put a sock in it and appreciate the finely balanced reasoning of the article.

    • Peter OBrien says:

      Unlike in politics and showbusiness, in the corporate world, sex between a manager and a staffer is, at the very least, frowned upon. In most companies, it would attract some form of disciplinary action, possibly sacking (hopefully for the manager). This is not based on morality considerations but on the potential for an affair to undermine corporate morale and productivity. This is, partly, the same logic that militates against a Minister employing his wife (I accept that there are other considerations as well).

    • Homer Sapien says:

      Nevertheless; “Der Fisch beginnt am Kopf zu stinken.”

  14. Warty says:

    Just a few random thoughts here. I may be mistaken, but I was led to believe that the National Party was a party in its own right and that it was in coalition with the dysfunctional Liberals.
    * Malcolm Turnbull, aided and abetted by the progressives within his own party, believe the Nationals can be dictated to.
    * Malcolm Turnbull, particularly, and the Liberals (perhaps) would have been ‘toast’ had our sunburnt Barnaby lost his bi-election.
    * Turnbull allegedly knew about Barnaby’s sexual exploits (the envy of Turnbull’s colleagues) when he congratulated him on his electoral ‘win’, called him his ‘friend’, and put his arm around him (asexually). Seems it wasn’t an issue then, as there was no visible fan with visible unmentionables stuck on the underneath part of the not yet manifest fan (or were they just ignoring it).
    * Turnbull, supported by his equally frustrated colleagues, is bringing in a code of conduct relating to sex between pollies and staffers. To me this smacks of the state interfering in people’s private lives (polllies are still people, after all).
    * In Michael Galak’s USSR, the state was obsessed with interfering in the private lives of its citizens, the inevitable outcome of collectivism combined with a bizarre dose of puritanism.
    * It appears some of our Quadrant readers are comfortable with state interference in people’s private lives (pollies are people too) and have deep seated love of puritanism.
    * I can’t understand why I’m rabbiting on about the whole topic, when I ‘fast forward’ when Andrew Bolt waves his admonishing finger, and when Peta Credlin feels compelled to mention the topic, and when Paul Murray (who loves to remind us again and again and again that he supported SSM before it became an issue) tut tuts (along with his panels) night after night without even a hint that he is morally compromised, and an entirely fake ‘bogan’ to boot.

  15. whitelaughter says:

    And if you hadn’t grown up in the Soviet Union, and instead in say, Edwardian England?

    Yes, I *would* like a return to an age where keeping promises matters. He’s lied to his wife (and the church, congregation and God), so why exactly should he be trusted by anyone else?

    Of course, what will happen is that he’s going to be replaced by some worthless apparatchik churned out by the university/party room cliques. And that will be disastrous.
    But that’s another reason to be annoyed with him.

  16. Ben says:

    I know Barnaby from childhood. Personally I have found the last two weeks very sad. He comes from a family that whilst I haven’t been in contact lately would have despised this behavior in any politician, or any man. They would have expected someone in his position to step down.

    Barnaby has been brought up to respect marriage and yet now he is flaunting his adultery. What we are seeing is not the Barnaby of old but someone who has become arrogant, possibly due to the adulation from his now mistress.

    Most decent people however find it wrong.

    The media coverage of his situation is an indication of how marriage is perceived by the elites.Most journalists believe he can carry on any way he likes as long it does not impact on his role. In most articles the word adultery is avoided.

    It is adultery and it a sign of a man of weak character. It is immoral. And it certainly shouldn’t be condoned in a parliamentarian. Ideally our leaders should be the best men and women this country can produce and who uphold our Christian morals.

    Having worked in parliament house I am well aware of indiscretions between staffers and their bosses. No one wants this put through the press or any Soviet style court.

    On the other hand when it is obvious that adultery has taken place (ie a baby and an abandonment of wife and family) the community has every right to judge. He is not fit to be Deputy PM. And many would justifiably question whether he has any place in the Australian parliament.

    • Warty says:

      You are no doubt well-meaning, and Barnaby’s family may indeed feel dreadful about all of this: that is their business, and they’ll have to find a way of recovering from the behaviour of a family member being discussed in public for over a week now.
      Nevertheless, whether he’s a politician or not, we still have several powerful adages that touch on all of this: ‘there for the grace of God go I’, and it is worth reflecting on this because its meaning is multi-layered. We also have the parable of ‘not casting the first stone’, again for similar reasons, the main being that we need to fix up our own collective camps before even thinking of judging others. It does not for a moment mean that we condone ‘immorality’ if we don’t shove ourselves to the front of the judging Barnaby queue, it doesn’t mean that at all. It is far better to live an exemplary life oneself, free of hubris of course.
      I do indeed believe there are consequences with regards to all that we do, as individuals or as a community. It becomes rather powerful when one takes time to consider that fully, whether or not it involves speech or action. And I don’t believe individuals can be forced into changing their ways: it ultimately becomes an inner battle and an inner desire to sort out one’s ‘stuff’.
      For me, one of the major issues here is the government interfering with an individual’s private life: it is not an area that ought to concern prime ministers or opposition leaders, and we can see the consequences of this, with the escalating rancour within the coalition.
      The media feeds off this stuff, knowing that there are all too many in the community that indulge in voyeurism.
      Many may indeed find it wrong, but the greater the finger wagging, the more it says about them. I can be opposed to SSM without judging individuals engaged in sodomy. I can feel a profound regret that community standards have deteriorate to such an extent that we do longer even consider the consequences of no fault divorce, or the likelihood that we may legalise pedophilia within twenty years (there is an underground push for that already).
      To counter all this I instead attempt to speak the Truth to the best of my ability, and study/reflect/pray in the hope this may filter out into a community of which I am a part. I do believe in such a thing as a collective consciousness, and that every effort to counter social degradation counts. I believe ‘moral relativism’ is a Post Modernist trojan horse designed to unravel our civilisation, but our role is to counter the trend, the thinking, rather than flail against individuals: the latter is ultimately counter productive (in other words I am not arguing from such a stand point).
      In my experience, Eros can be an immensely powerful force: the fact that I married twice stands testimony to this, so I am not one to judge. There may be those who use their own fidelity as a justification for judging others who’ve been less successful, but perhaps they have other flaws they may wish to work on.
      My apologies if I sound pious.

      • Ben says:

        Barnaby would probably have survived if he had not moved in with his mistress but made genuine attempts to reconcile with his WIFE, whilst also financially supporting his child out of wedlock. But his actions say it all. He has no respect for marriage. The LGBT crowd are quite right in calling him a hypocrite.

        You may believe in “collective consciousness”. However Barnaby comes from the world of moral absolutes. Adultery being on top of the list. Good men of character learn self restraint. They do not abandon their wife and children to set up a love nest with a younger woman not matter how difficult marriage may be.

        You may be happy to bow to Eros”, and our modern – Godless – culture applauds you for “following your heart”. However a still sizeable proportion of the population – as evidenced in the SSM vote – still respects the institution of marriage.

        Barnaby will not survive this personally or professionally. This is a debate about marriage which cannot be shoved to the side. Not for a politician where often laws are decided on one’s moral compass. Currently Barnaby is going against his own personal beliefs and I would dare say he will wake up one morning from this madness to ask himself how he has got himself in this situation. Unfortunately I believe it is already too late.

        • Ben says:

          I will add that Malcolm Turnbull, rare as it may be, has spoken the bleeding obvious about his bad decisions. It is not acceptable. The average Australian voter expects better.

        • Warty says:

          You need to be accurate when attributing things to me: I said ‘Eros can be an immensely powerful force’ and philosophers have said as much over the past three or more thousand years. My stating as much has little to do with ‘our modern – Godless – culture’, far less my happily bowing down to Eros/Cupid. I have made many mistakes in my life . . . period.
          The media has made much of his purporting to support ‘family values’ and then having an affair. We know nothing of the circumstance leading to his having an affair (and believe me the MSM would love to delve into that unfortunate tale) but for the rest of us, Barnaby is as fallible as we, regardless of the principles he has been unable to live up to.
          There is the moot possibility that you yourself may have failed to live up to your own principles: I know I haven’t and am happy to acknowledge the fact, hence my unwillingness to judge Barnaby.
          Unless I’m mistaken, it seems you have inside knowledge about whether or not he ‘made genuine attempts to reconcile with his WIFE’. Incidentally, why the ‘scream’ uppercase lettering for ‘wife’? You also seem to suggest he intends not to ‘financially support his wife out of wedlock’. I haven’t heard mention of that particular bombshell.