No one is perfect. Infidelity, separation and divorce happen every single day worldwide – across all communities, religions and cultures for a multitude of reasons.
And so to Barnaby Joyce. Apparently his marriage was finished well before he took up with his new partner. Perhaps he and his wife had fallen out of love over a long period of time. Only they know. Of course it doesn’t make infidelity something to cheer about but it is very often the symptom of a failing marriage/relationship rather than the cause (for both men and women). Barnaby has now said that the failure of his marriage is his greatest regret. Personally, I believe him, which to my mind makes it even more torturous for them all.
However, I do think we need to keep his views (and ours) on marriage (and Marriage Equality) separate from the situation he now finds himself in.
For those bleating about hypocrisy consider this. Barnaby, as many have implied (both in mainstream and especially social media), wasn’t spouting forth continually about family values. The breakdown of his marriage just happened to collide with the debate on Marriage Equality. So his stance on marriage was asked of him in the context of the Marriage Equality debate. It was asked of all our elected representatives. Barnaby wasn’t walking around the streets proselytising about the sanctity of marriage. He had no choice but to comment. Given what he was going through at the time he (don’t forget he DID publicly announce his separation in early December) would probably have preferred to stick pins in his eyes than make comment, but of course he had to. And despite knowing the turmoil going on in his personal life, he struck true to his beliefs even though they were failing him at the very same time. In an odd way I kind of admire him for that, so have sympathy for him.
Conversely though, I will find it hard to ever forgive him for abstaining on the Marriage Equality vote ~ but that’s not the issue here.
For those who complain that he should have told his electorate about his separation and subsequent affair before the by-election, he didn’t need to and personally I don’t believe he was required to do so. It was already very well known around the water coolers of the electorate. Indeed rumours had abounded for months and months that his wife had thrown him (and his belongings) out on the street and he was living with his sister. A woman (supposedly one of his daughters) had apparently driven one of the National Party campaign Utes around town exhorting people not to vote for him. Whether the last two are true or not, or despite them, the people of Tamworth still chose to elect him.
Our elected representatives are a reflection of us. Throughout communities across Australia, each and every day, mistakes are made, and failures are common, but on the whole we support each other through tough times. When relationships split or crumble, again, on the whole, we do our best not to take sides. Why should politicians (or any person in the public eye) be treated any differently? They are not Gods and have very real human foibles just like the rest of us. And just like us, some have a good moral compass whilst some appear not to have one at all. To expect them to be somehow greater than us is not only wishful thinking but also somewhat naïve. This is not to say that we can’t continue to set the bar high but it needs to be realistic and set at the same level for everyone.
Which is why I believe Cathy McGowan and Richard di Natale’s proposed politician/staffer sex ban is quite possibly the most idiotic thing I’ve ever heard come out of a politician’s mouth. How on earth would that be policed? What would the penalty be? Would it only apply to those discovered to be having an extramarital affair or also for a bit of nooky in the wee hours after a long parliamentary session between two consenting single adults or those in a relationship but not married? I wonder how the myriads of politicians who have come before Barnaby (who have had affairs or whose relationships have failed ~ some with higher profiles than others) feel about all this? Oh, and those currently in a similar situation.
Don’t forget the hypocrisy of the media too. Those who have known about this should have (if they were true to their ‘sacred’ journalistic principles) reported it over 6-12 months ago. I find it truly incongruous that they are hiding behind those very principles to defend their decision to only now hit publish. Maybe they stayed silent because they actually realised that it wasn’t newsworthy or in anyone’s interest to know the detail. Certainly many of Barnaby’s colleagues on both sides of the Chamber have said as much. But of course now that it’s become salacious (thanks to the ambulance-chasing journalists at the Daily Mail Telegraph) everyone’s pursuing the ratings or clicks and they’re splashing it all over their front pages and the airwaves, camping outside the wife’s home and taking photos of a pregnant woman. Such nauseating inconsistency.
Whilst his appearance on a recent 7.30 Report probably did Barnaby zero favours, there are no winners anywhere here and I think as a community we do ourselves a great disservice by being so hateful and judgemental. Further, making nasty comments about Barnaby’s appearance, the differences in age and how it would have been assessed and reported differently if the roles were reversed are also not helpful – to anyone or any cause.
It’s my view that everyone should just cease and desist and focus on making a more positive and balanced contribution to the Australian political narrative. With the current political climate, it would appear it is very much needed.
Until next time…