Flat White

Barnaby Joyce and the return of the scarlet letter

9 February 2018

5:00 PM

9 February 2018

5:00 PM

With all the grubby reporting of a private matter between two consenting adults, the media pack, led by the Daily Telegraph, with ABC’s Leigh Sales not far behind, acted with all the salacious panting that the Anglosphere displays in such matters.

Imagine that news story breaking in France. Well, it wouldn’t, would it? Not really.

French, Italians, Europeans generally, (and let’s include Asians as well) would all shrug, ‘C’est la vie, n’est ce pas?’ It’s only puritanical Anglos ( lets definitely include Yanks, those tightass Puritans who first thought forcing a woman who had a baby out of wedlock, to stand in the marketplace wearing a scarlet letter ‘A’ deterred others who might likewise be tempted.

Australia, we’re not the grownup, sophisticated (in the cosmopolitan grownup sense) country we like to think we are. We’re back with the Brits and their tabloid hounding of people who, in the minds of some, have transgressed, shock horror.


The French would be far more upset about a scandal involving corruption in high places than sex because they’re grown up about such things. Unlike us. Unlike the Americans.

In fact, the French leader M’sieur Macron is considered somewhat unusual, in that – according to gossip, he has no mistress, not yet, anyway – and his wife is his former school teacher. Think what the Australian media would have made of that.

Indi Independent MP Cathy McGowan has suggested parliament consider following the US House of Representatives and implementing a ban on sexual relationships between elected representatives and their staff.

Oh really, Ms McGowan? That ain’t going to work because all one of the partners has to do is move jobs. We’re not talking here of non-consensual relationships, where power balances put huge pressure of women (think Bill Clinton and White House intern Monica Lewinsky) but adult, meaningful relationships between men and woman who love each other.

Trying to bring back a scarlet letter more akin to the code of behaviour in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s account of the manners and modes of the mid-seventeenth-century Puritan colony on Massachusetts Bay will make the French laugh in that particularly patronising way they have.  Ah, les Anglos. C’est incroyable [along with another Gallic shrug]

Malcolm Turnbull said this morning, firmly and to his credit, that relationships between consenting adults were “not something you’d be justified in seeking to regulate.” He should also have added, “Nothing to see here, folks, just move on.”

Illustration: MGM/United Artists.

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