When the media caught a glimpse of former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce’s private life, it exploded. Like raging wildfire, news of Joyce’s affair with his now-pregnant former staffer spread everywhere. Joyce’s private life, career and personal character have been unrelentingly obliterated. What a hypocrite! I heard them roar. A staunch defender of the traditional family in the same-sex marriage debate, yet he destroyed his own. A liar! A grub! They chant.
On Friday Fairfax media were still running a fresh suggestive story about a rejected Freedom of Information bid for Joyce’s mistress Vicki Campion’s travel record.
To the stone-casters immersed in this Two Minutes Hate frenzy – the question is, when will you stop with the double standards and virtue signalling?
Of course, I do not defend or justify the scandalous actions of Barnaby Joyce and Vikki Campion, and the immense suffering that this has caused his wife and daughters. Marriage and family life stand as an edifice, a place that shapes the visions, values, hopes and aspirations of children. But, it’s a double-edged sword: though the family can be a beacon of hope, when it collapses it is the children who suffer, and if this happens on a large scale, society will come crashing down with it.
In fact, I wholeheartedly support Turnbull’s new ministerial code of conduct and his critique of Joyce’s moral fiasco and his comment stating:
I have no interest in prying into people’s personal or private affairs at all. I am not here to moralise…it is not acceptable for a minister to have a sexual relationship with somebody who works for them. It is a very bad workplace practice. And everybody knows that no good comes of it.
Yet I can’t but ponder the blatant media bias – why isn’t the media criticising Bill Shorten, who dumped his wife for the previous Governor-General, Quentin Bryce’s daughter? We seem to have forgotten the tabloid story of Shorten leaving his Liberal blueblood spouse, Debbie Beale, to be with the blonde glamour, Chloe Bryce, who was married at the time to architect Roger Parkin with two children. Friends of Shorten’s estranged wife, Debbie Beale, revealed to the media Ms Beale’s observation that it was “interesting that Mr Shorten and Ms Bryce are expecting a baby, while both remain married to other people.” But like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, Shorten stands before us masquerading as a man of virtue, with the audacity to publically shame Joyce: “Mr Turnbull must sack his Deputy Prime Minister from the cabinet.” Shorten, please stop with the virtue signalling and grandstanding, you are no better.
What about former PM Bob Hawke’s clandestine love affair with Blanche d’Alpuget while he was still married to Hazel Hawke? The consequences were immeasurable. One of Bob Hawke’s daughters succumbed to drugs, the downtrodden Hazel sought three facelifts to lift her spoiled self-esteem, Bob Hawke’s son refused to speak with his father for years and Hazel was left to walk the rest of her life in her husband’s shadow. But Blanche does not seem to see the need to loosen up her golden halo, parading infidelity as a virtue, with Blanche describing how she freed Hazel from an ‘ugly, dead’ marriage. To top it all up – Bob Hawke and Blanche d’Alpuget voted Yes for same-sex marriage, even though Blanche trashed the entire institution of marriage when justifying her love affair in a 2017 interview in the Weekend Australian Magazine, “the monogamy system is crooked. Crooked for a natural human life.” Why fight for ‘marriage equality’ when you do not believe in marriage?
Again, where was the public outcry when Tony Abbott’s sister, Christine Forster, and her partner, Virginia Edwards, left their respective husbands to pursue a same-sex relationship? Virginia Edwards, who featured in a 2013 publication in the “Two of Us” section in the Good Weekend magazine, said:
Probably when the boys were in year 4 or 5, we became aware that this was more than just a very strong friendship…. I started thinking, ‘These are very strong feelings I have for Christine, not just friendship feelings.’ I was in a monogamous marriage for 21 years.
Yet, instead of being reprimanded for their secret love affair and for splitting up their families, they remained the media’s heroes.
In the eyes of the media, who like to think of themselves as a champion of the underdog, this contemporary love affair is of the kind told in classics like Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina – with Forster and Edwards being long-lost soulmates, women stuck in unhappy monogamous marriages and trapped by society’s ‘rigid expectations’. But the media seem to be forgetting that the pursuit of love for love’s sake is what Tolstoy could very well have been discrediting. We must not forget the awful, cruel and selfish consequences that come with foolhardiness and frenzied passions.
I am not backing Barnaby, but if you can throw your stones at Barnaby Joyce for his hypocritical support of traditional marriage, then why spare same-sex marriage advocates like Forster, Edwards, Blanche, Hawke and Shorten who ironically fight for an institution that they have no faith in after they themselves have transgressed? But in the age of #LoveisLove, where marriage lasts as long as the love lasts, does this culture of boundless desire, transgressive infidelity and lack of permanence really surprise you?
Georgette Bechara studies commerce/law at the University of Sydney.
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