As expected, the much-touted Channel Seven interview with Member for New England Barnaby Joyce and Vikki Campion answered few questions, writes political editor Dr Martin Hirst.
FOR PROFESSIONAL REASONS, I was unable to take Kenny Devine's advice (below) last night.
Recreate the experience of tuning into the Barnaby Joyce interview by watching a leg of ham bake in an oven, before you vomit on your lounge.— Kenny Devine (@TheKennyDevine) June 3, 2018
Nobody made me do it. I was a willing test subject, but, of course, there were conditions.
Number one was a sufficient intake of alcohol to numb my emotional responses to a dull, seething anger. The second was being latched to an uncomfortable chair with only my hands-free to keep my Twitter timeline humming along. Finally, my kind spouse taped open my eyelids so that I had no choice but to endure the agonising 60 minutes that were inflicted on us by the Seven Network producers.
Yes, I admit it; I watched the Barnaby and Vikki (Barnikky) show on Seven's Sunday Night last night (3 June). But I have a good excuse — as political editor for this esteemed publication, I had no choice. It was my duty to watch, so you didn’t have to.
Did you miss anything?
Even if you didn’t watch the Seven interview when it aired, you can’t have missed the teasing details that were released during the marketing blitz for the $150,000 “exclusive”.
The Beetrorter proffered the excuse that he had “no choice” but to do the interview because of the relentless public scrutiny he and Vikki Campion have been put under since his baby news broke in February.
Then there was the bombshell snippet that there had been “pressure” on the loved-up couple to abort the baby. Well, that’s interesting since we also already know from Joyce's own lips that little Sebastian might be someone else’s baby.
We know Vikki Campion is the mother, obviously; but nobody has come forward to reveal themselves as the cuckoo in Barnaby's nest away from home.
And then there was Vikki’s girly admission that she couldn’t help falling in love with Barnaby’s many charms. Of course, as they say, love is blind.
In the promotion clip released by Seven, Campion says: “You can’t help who you fall in love with.”
Joyce then pipes up, with: “I failed, I failed, I failed, I failed, I failed.”
That statement may turn out to be the most honest one to come out of the Beetrorter’s mouth in perhaps … oh, I don’t know …”Forever?”
You see, it’s hard to believe Joyce’s disclaimer that it was Campion’s choice to do the interview and accept the money, and that he would have done it for free if his partner and their child were not involved.
Campion could have done the interview without him. But, let’s not kid ourselves, having Joyce’s crimson-flushed face on camera during this sit-down was the money shot. That’s what Channel Seven has paid for.
And that’s what they got. Channel Seven reporter Alex Cullen has already said that the couple decided together to do the interview.
Joyce has been all over the news despite crying out that he only wanted privacy. He is doing this because he thinks it might help reboot his failing political career. Cullen has also revealed that the Beetrorter wants to get back on the Coalition front bench.
Let’s hope Joyce’s bid for televisual rehabilitation fails.
It’s all about choices and Barnikki made some pretty bad ones. It might also turn out that accepting Channel Seven’s money might also be a bad one. The Australian Tax Office may come calling after its cut.
So what’s left to reveal?
Well, first there’s all the questions that Channel Seven didn’t ask. The ones that were put off limits during Barnikki’s contract negotiations.
The interview fell flat. There were only a couple of interesting moments — the rest of the hour can be divided into Joyce refusing to answer the important questions and Channel Seven trying to make it a love story gone wrong.
There were at least a dozen direct questions that went unanswered and probably another dozen questions that weren’t even asked. Editorially, the focus for the network was milking young Sebastian for all he is worth — apparently $150,000. There was lots of “cooing” and cute talking to and about the young boy.
But it was pretty disturbing that Joyce appeared to be blaming the newborn for the mess he and Campion were in.
This really did set the tone. Joyce stonewalled every difficult question and the whole sorry hour became one long mea culpa and series of apologies for the people who’ve been hurt by the couple’s affair.
As we might expect, Joyce's hypocrisy was clearly on display.
As a practising Catholic, he was horrified that Vikki might abort their unborn son; but as a practising Catholic, he was happy to be having an affair behind the back of his wife and daughters.
Joyce was also upset that people were trying to police his personal life and his choice of sexual partners. Once again, Twitter didn’t let him get away with this. Many people pointed out that this was exactly what Joyce had done with his backwards and reactionary stance on marriage equality, which he also claimed was because of his religious beliefs.
To be honest I was pretty much disgusted by the behaviour of Barnikki.
At every opportunity, Joyce chucked another body under the wheels of the bus, mostly in order to save his own sorry ass. Everything was everyone else’s fault or someone else’s idea. It started with Joyce mock-shaming his new son for causing all the problems. It continued pretty much in this vein throughout.
The most political moment came when Joyce described his National Party cronies as “the scum of the earth” for their allegedly putting pressure on Vikki to terminate her pregnancy.
WOAH: Barnaby says some of the people in parliament are "scum of the earth" and forced pressure on Vikki to get an abortion. Maybe even in the Nationals? #sn7 #SundayNight #auspol #BarnabyJoyce— Sam Murden (@MrSamMurden) June 3, 2018
On the important issue of when the office affair began, we were given a hint, but only by the Channel Seven reporter. During one of the “field” segments, obviously added in to pad out an otherwise lacklustre hour of television, Alex Cullen said that the pair began a romantic relationship sometime in mid to late 2016. However, Joyce squirmed when pressed about dates and how he would characterise his relationship with Campion in the early stages of their liaison.
What was made clear was that at the time of the 2017 Press Gallery Mid-Winter Ball, Joyce and Campion were a steady item. Yet Joyce took his wife, Natalie, to the social event, not Vikki.
When asked about this Joyce made some inept and bumbling answer about still trying to work things out with Natalie. There was a loud series of bumps as the karma bus ran over Vikki.
It was clear from Joyce’s discomfort that taking his wife – not his girlfriend – to the Mid-Winter Ball was all about the cover-up. And that is really the whole problem with this paid-for-television interview. By putting the focus on the rooting and the fruiting of the rooting we are left completely in the dark about the rorting that went with the rooting.
The questions most of us wanted answers to are about the money spent on conducting the affair and keeping it out of the public eye.
Questions such as:
- Who paid for all the trips of a "personal nature" that you two took together?
- Who engineered all the well-paid jobs for Ms Campion while you were together?
- Did Ms Campion go with Mr Joyce to Rome to visit the Pope? How do you square that with your alleged devotion to God?
- How much of our money was used to fund your trysts with Campion?
I was able to find one satisfying moment in the whole ugly drama.
Joyce seemed to understand that his political career was badly damaged by the affair and, perhaps more importantly, by the awful way that the cover-up was handled and his off-the-rails behaviour once it became public.
"I suppose by the end I was fighting more out of spite than out of logic": #BarnabyJoyce on why he held on to the job of deputy PM after pregnancy news broke #auspol #sundaynight— Orietta Guerrera (@OriettaGuerrera) June 3, 2018
Towards the end of the interview (at least in the sequencing of the edited version) Joyce admits that he was running more on “spite” than “logic” during the latter stages of his fall from grace. This is palpably true and arguably still the case today.
This interview raised more questions than it answered, and it was probably another nail in Joyce’s career coffin. That is no bad thing.
Finally, Channel Seven has rightly been criticised for chequebook journalism over this story. The unwritten rule has long been that with this type of reporting you get what you paid for and you cede control to the interviewee, who can simply refuse to answer difficult questions or have them ruled out completely from the start.
That clearly happened in this case. Joyce simply brushed aside questions he didn’t want to answer — those that would tend to incriminate his rorting even more. More importantly, the whole interview was soft-balled. Alex Cullen bowled up no short stuff and didn’t persist with follow-up questions when he had the chance.
We’ll see some fallout over the next 48 hours, but we might not know if Joyce’s career is over for a few weeks yet.
You can follow political editor Dr Martin Hirst on Twitter @ethicalmartini.
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