Alien Side Boob

John Birmingham

The Joyce of Sex

Fri 9th Feb 2018

It’s a brave man who, having been calamitously dacked, strides forth with beef swellington and grumblecharms swinging in the breeze to call out the nearest fully-trousered gent for going disgracefully exposed in the public thoroughfares. Brave. Or stupid. Or simply incapable of shame. Barnabus Joyce decided to be that brave, shameless, vaguely man-shaped thing, crudely carved from a spoiled tuck shop ham, when he decided that Wednesday was the day to call out Bill Shorten as “a total and utter hypocrite who you cannot trust.”

Firstly, Barn, it’s ‘whom’.

And secondly, what a bold choice, champ, to cry havoc on another bloke’s imagined shortcomings on the day, the very fucking day one’s own manifest dearth of worth has been sprayed across the front-pages of Lord Rupert’s tabloids like a prize Hereford’s glistening love yoghurt blasted from an oversize novelty SuperSoaker.

Barn, of course, was trying to fit up Labor’s Shorty Bill for defending Susan Lamb from a spot of constitutional bother as regards her being yet another cunning foreigner wot’s coming ‘ere to take our jobs and parliamentary pensions. But you’d have thought Barn might have kept his big, ugly head tucked in on Wednesday, since all anybody was actually talking about right then was his inability to keep his smaller, uglier head tucked in… to his fucking pants, eh guvnor!?!

Joyce, an unctuous teletubby at the best of times, was in no position to lecture anybody about issues of trust and hypocrisy, having been exposed as the sort of family values politician who values his family mostly as human props for merchandising purposes.

His staunch defence of the traditional family in the marriage equality vote, now sits rather awkwardly with abandoning his wife and four daughters to impregnate a much younger woman working in his Parliamentary office.

Still, if you’re going to be exposed as a cad and a bounder, best it be in a gentle puff piece by the Daily Telegraph, the government’s very own advertorial spam channel.  “Bundle of Joyce” the headline bellowed. Deputy PM and staffer “Madly in Love”, the kicker announced below, next to a soft focus shot of Barn’s pregnant media officer.

It almost felt as though the Terror was soft peddling the story in return for getting access to it.

But of course we all had access to it. That is the buried lede. The entire Press Gallery, and through them the ever-shrinking profession of journalism as a whole, well knew that Joyce was not just an egregious hypocrite. His affair with a woman on the payroll in his office was behaviour of a sort that most HR departments in most modern workplaces would immediately nuke from orbit.

Just to be sure.

So why was it not reported? Especially with Joyce having to run for his seat again late last year. In my case, I stay away from these stories because I don’t have ten- to fifteen thousand dollars a day to pay a barrister and his instructing solicitors in the defamation suit which would follow. There is no First Amendment in Australia. Our libel laws, inherited from Victorian England were originally designed to cover the shiny red arses of nineteenth century gentlemen hypocrites. They do a pretty decent job of it up here in the Twenty-First too.

 But that’s not everything going on in the Joyce story. There are cultural and professional norms at work. Some positive. Some not. Among the former is a commendable reluctance of most reporters to warm their hands at the brightly burning trash fire that is the private life of your average politician. Australia is not the UK, with its furtive national chubby for any hit of shameful naughtiness. It’s not the US, where the Puritan germ line still runs strongly through the body politic. It’s good that we let public figures have private lives.

But you have to wonder how much of that reluctance is a hangover from the days when politicians were always white and always male.

If Julia Gillard had got herself knocked up shagging an office boy and had then run out on a husband and four children would she have got the Madly in Love, Actually treatment from Lord Rupert’s janissaries?

The fuck, she would.

And how much of journos’ professional reluctance to put the blowtorch to the belly of men like Joyce is simply a matter of maintaining the comfortable in-house culture that sees reporters swapping into and out of political roles as being perfectly natural? Vikki Campion, Joyce’s pregnant girlfriend, was a reporter for seven years before sidestepping into media advisory work for a series of National Party ministers at both state and federal level.

She is far from unique in following this career path.

And the paper she wrote for?

The Daily Telegraph.