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Barnaby Joyce, Andrew Broad and false advertising in politics

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National Party Member for Mallee Andrew Broad (Screenshot via YouTube)

Elected representatives are supposed to be leaders and we have the right to expect that they act as advertised, at the very least, writes Noely Neate.

YOU WILL PROBABLY call me a prude, but I believe what happens behind closed doors when it comes to politicians' personal relationships is our business.

First, we had Barnaby Joyce and now we have Member for Mallee Andrew Broad falling foul due to sexual scandals. As the Joyce case was media-massaged as "you can’t help who you fall in love with" type rubbish, Broad may still survive to contest the next election as well. The attitude seems to be as long as they have not misused public funds to conduct an affair, then it is okay and none of our business.

This is where I fully disagree. When a politician markets themselves as a God-fearing family man to attract votes when they patently are not, then, that is "false advertising". If a crappy product advertised itself as full of fruit and soft inside, but you bit into it and it was just sugar and hard as nails, that product would get pulled from shelves and the manufacturers of that product would likely be fined. So why is the "false advertising" of politicians – who fulfil a role that is a hell of a lot more important than a cheap store-bought consumer product – held to a lower standard?

I get it that, with the way media can be, it might often be difficult to present yourself honestly as a politician. I mean, I could never run for local council as I doubt sitting in at a meet-the-candidate forum and confessing that when I am super stressed and busy I have a tendency to swear like a trooper would go down well. If you choose to present yourself in a certain way to voters, however, then you sure as hell better be what you presented.

Both Joyce and Broad presented themselves as good old family men. Hell, they were arrogant enough to expect every LGBTIQ+ person in the nation to justify their right to marry just like these "God-fearing" men, who believe marriage is only between a man and a woman, and is a sacred site? In the case of Broad he, apparently, carried on about bloody "randy rams". So, after what we all went through with the same-sex marriage plebiscite, these two particular MPs should be slammed by all and sundry for their massive hypocrisy alone.

What bothers me is people saying it is not okay to slam them because of this hypocrisy. I disagree. I disagree for a few reasons.

One, I honestly believe any politician who is leading a double life or has secrets on the side is comprised. If you have a public persona which a secret life could blow out of the water, like these two politicians, it opens you up to corruption and, at the very least, coerced decision making.

I’ve seen it before in a large corporation with the CEO having an affair. Certain suppliers, who should not have gotten contracts, for example, did so. Certain employees, who should not have been, were promoted. All because the odd secret tryst is discovered by those who benefit from the CEO’s decisions. It does not need to be overt blackmail, just the knowledge that a particular employee or supplier can make life very difficult for that CEO is enough for the nudge-nudge, wink-wink, we are mates aren’t we, type situation to result.

In the case of government ministers, particularly ones who are on the front bench, how many opportunities to be coerced and have decisions made in the interest of keeping your secrets could this result in? It certainly does not put the voter at the forefront of decision-making processes?

I also call bullshit on the whole "what happens in a politician's personal life is none of our business". The whole, "what happens behind closed doors is none of our business", is the reason why we have such a hopeless attitude toward rampant domestic violence in this nation. Actually, if someone is having the shit kicked out of them, as a decent human being, it is actually your business. Not to mention a crime, so also police business, who will only know if you, the person who overhears said shit-kicking, actually gives them a heads-up.

Politicians like Joyce and Broad who betray their wives and kids for their own sexual gratification should not be allowed to get away with it because "personal lives are none of our business". If a politician is happy to use his family as a prop to make himself out to be a good old bloke we can trust to look after our interests to get our vote, then we have a right to know if he is not the lovely family man he portrayed himself to be.

If a politician professes his religious beliefs to be so important and then betrays those who are closest to him for his own self-gratification, then how can we trust he will put the voters of his electorate first? Do you really think the voter stands a chance?

Face it, the average voter makes their choice on the "vibe" or perception of a person, particularly in a rusted-on area where the Nationals, for example, are the only show in town. As long as the candidate (usually a bloke) is somewhat representative of your own values – family man, bonus if God-fearing, seems like a "decent" person – then they are a shoo-in for the representative gig. The bloke who cheated on his wife, flew overseas to meet up with a woman from a dating website, is not the "vibe" they voted for. Hence, it's false advertising.

Sadly, with the help of both local and national media, Joyce got away with his betrayal of his family and false advertising to the electorate with the wonderful "please respect my family's privacy" schtick. Oh... and apparently, according to some in the media, this is not actually a sordid tale, but an epic "love story".

Call me unrealistic if you will. I don’t expect politicians to be perfect, but I do expect them to be honest and at least a close facsimile of what they present to the electorate.

Most importantly, when it comes to treating women with disrespect, politicians should be setting the standard for not walking past it. Sadly, as we have seen with Barnaby Joyce and Andrew Broad, they don’t just walk past that standard, they give it the finger as they sprint past it.

Members of parliament are supposed to be leaders and set the standards for the nation. Time to stop excusing them for false representation.

We have the right to expect that the product we purchased is as advertised at the very least.

Read more from Noely Neate on her blog YaThink?, or follow her on Twitter @YaThinkN.

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