Most of the reaction to the Daily Telegraph’s story about Barnaby Joyce’s former media adviser Vikki Campion who is now pregnant has not been about Joyce’s conduct, but whether the story should have been run at all. Some have been crying invasion of privacy and sensationalism.
The story states that Campion, 33, and Joyce, 50, are expecting their first child in April and have been telling their friends they are madly in love. They have also moved in together. Campion is former journalist and was deputy chief of staff at the Daily Telegraph itself.
It had become public knowledge last year during the New England by-election that Joyce had engaged in an affair with Campion and alleged that his wife of 24 years and mother of his four daughters had kicked him out of the family home and he was staying with his sister. The Daily Telegraph reported back in October that Joyce was facing a personal crisis, though the much discussed detail was omitted.
Joyce confirmed his separation from his wife when making his speech in the House of Representatives against same sex marriage, which he had been vocally opposed to for many years. He abstained from the final vote.
The argument that Canberra journalists should have engaged in some sort of cover up and decided to betray their duty to the public to report honestly about our political leaders is outrageous.
While it is correct that there is no evidence Joyce has broken any laws or misused any parliamentary expenses with the Australian people have the right to know that their Deputy Prime Minister, a person with an extremely high level of responsibility has a turbulent personal life which could affect the ability of him to do his job. Campion was eventually moved from Joyce’s office to work for his former key adviser, Resources Minister Matt Canavan.
It should be noted that being a politician is different from standard employment. You are elected not just on your CV but your whole personality. Politicians often use their families in campaign materials and the public are entitled to know if the politician they elected is not the person they sell themselves as.
It is especially relevant if they sell themselves as a family values politician. Nothing discredits a conservative campaign more than if its spokespeople are discovered to be hypocrites in the personal lives.
It is also widely known by journalists in Canberra that other MPs are engaging in affairs. The members of the Canberra Press Gallery should really decide if they are journalists or instead running a protection racket for their political mates who they rely on for their stories and leaks.
It is not the first time a media outlet has been criticized by other journalists for reporting on the personal lives of politicians. It was frowned upon that Laurie Oakes revealed that Cheryl Kernot was having an affair with former foreign minister Gareth Evans even though the affair played a big part in Kernot’s decision to defect from the Democrats to the Labor Party.
Channel Seven was also criticised to exposing that former NSW Police Minister David Campbell was visiting a gay sauna, which could have opened him up to blackmail by criminal organisations.
Some people who come across the Joyce story might decide that it’s his private life and not cast judgement. But let the public make up their own minds, journalists should not make the public’s mind up for them and decide what they can and cannot know about their leaders.
Other politicians’ reactions to the Telegraph’s story so far have been quite muted. Malcolm Turnbull’s office, for example, made no comment. Obviously if other MPs are engaged in affairs then none of them would be willing to engage in any political point scoring for fear they may be the next to be exposed. The news cycle of company tax cuts and the Adani coal mine has continued.
If there are more MPs deceiving the public and it is potentially affecting their ability to do their job or they are being hypocritical in their politics then we hope journalists are still capable of doing their jobs. The public’s right to know should always be paramount.
Tim Wilms is editor in chief of The Unshackled, where this piece also appears.
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