The fallout from the Barnaby affair

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(Cartoon by Bruce Keogh / keoghcartoons.com.au.)

Bruce Keogh spares a thought for the families embroiled in the Barnaby affair. 

POLITICIANS cannot be trusted.

Tell us something we don’t know, you are saying.

Yes, it is a given, but the scandal surrounding Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and his pregnant extramarital partner Vikki Campion is about far more than trust. It encapsulates what is so wrong with our political and media modus operandi.

It is a minefield of personal failings on the part of the Nationals leader. It is a mainstream media disgrace.

Terms that have been bandied about in relation to Joyce's conduct include inflated ego, betrayal, hypocrisy, deception, disingenuousness, cynicism, self-interest and poor self-control. We would expect that with high office comes a heightened cognisance of personal accountability. We might as well expect fairies at the bottom of the garden.

Barnaby, of course, is not alone in philandering or misdeeds. Truth is, we so-called "average" Australians believe we are more intelligent and scrupulous than our elected representatives, making them not representative at all. 

These so-called leaders legislate to control our lives but they cannot control their own. What gets our elected representatives to the top is overblown self-confidence and a misplaced ego-driven belief of superiority. How else can we explain them treating us like fools? So often, their condescension is nauseating.

All this begs two questions and, sadly, the answer to both is “no”. Can a progressive, enlightened society exist in this socio-political paradigm? And can anything be done?

The answer could be “yes”, but there is a huge obstacle. It is widespread apathy.

We are constantly bombarded with morbid news of scandal, tragedy, terrorism, death and destruction — it goes on.

On television, we can go from a news story on a shocking train crash to an advertisement for toothpaste. Research has shown these images meld so that subliminally, we perceive little difference between brushing teeth and viewing a tragic accident. The abnormal becomes normal, no matter how tragic, outrageous or brutal. It is the breeding ground of apathy.

In this case, the train wreck is proverbial, but nonetheless heart-rending. The casualties are the four daughters and estranged wife of Barnaby Joyce. Mercifully, it is being seen as tragic – and brutal – on the part of Barnaby. Apathy has been turned on its head because Australians, by and large, abhor betrayal of family.

With almost every Australian knowing that their formerly high profile and trusted patriarch is now the laughing stock of the nation, the Joyce family are paying the terrible price for his political ambition.

Rumours of Barnaby’s affair with Vikki Campion had been circulating since 2016 — and it is possible that his family knew of the philandering well before the New England by-election which they helped him win through their portrayal as the traditional happy and united Australian family.

That the affair gained media coverage must not have come as a shock but shocking for them must have been the Daily Telegraph front page photo of a heavily pregnant Campion, bearing the child of their husband and father. One cringes for them, imagining their distress and humiliation. Traumatic marriage breakdowns sadly happen every day of the week but to be sensationalised on the national stage must have felt unimaginably cruel.

The mainstream media, notorious for its lack of sensitivity needs scrutiny. With no ethical or moral spine, it continues to exhibit minimal social responsibility.

The MSM now ridicules Barnaby for hypocrisy, but it appears to not own a mirror. The media had a responsibility to inform the constituents of New England – and, indeed, Australia – that something was awry with the preacher of the sanctity of traditional marriage cheating on his wife by bonking an employee young enough to be his daughter.

Instead, the media hid behind the absurd pretext that private lives should remain private, conveniently waiting for the New England by-election to be over and won. More hypocrisy in the form of a mutually self-interested media/politician protection racket.

Barnaby, too, is a casualty. He is a tragedy of a political culture where swagger, bravado and ego override semblances of substance, maturity, wisdom good judgment and behaving like juveniles is the formula for success. To achieve the mantle of Deputy Prime Minister, he must have been the penultimate perfect fit for this tragic paradigm we call feral politics ... whoops, Federal.

It is time to spare a thought for the yet-to-be-born casualty.

Will the mainstream media hold back in paparazzi-style pursuit of photos? Not a chance — and that is sad. Publicity will hardly be celebrity status. It will have the dubious distinction of notoriety, something no child should have to grow up with. It's hardly a great welcome into the world.

The best thing Barnaby could do for his fifth child is to minimise collateral damage by getting out of politics and the public gaze to focus on nurturing an Australian family. But Barnaby’s ego is too inflated for that to happen.

Taking a week off, as prescribed by Prime Minister Turnbull, Barnaby is supposedly considering his future, which needs no consideration in his eyes. Massive media humiliation, negative opinion polls and even American TV satire cannot burst the bubble that is the shameless ego of Barnaby Joyce. He is digging in.

The Senate has called for his resignation for breaching ministerial standards. 

Meanwhile, our democracy is blighted. No love lost.

Tell us something we don’t know, you are saying.

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