Welcome to the new (old) moralism: how the media’s coverage of the Joyce affair harks back to the 1950s



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The Barnaby Joyce saga has been an example of ‘shake-the-tree’ journalism at its worst.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Denis Muller, University of Melbourne

The Barnaby Joyce saga has given a great boost to what might be called “shake-the-tree” journalism: you shake the tree by running a sensational story and see what falls out.

The Daily Telegraph’s original public-interest case for publishing the first story of Joyce’s relationship with ex-staffer Vikki Campion was weak when weighed against the privacy intrusions on Joyce, his estranged wife, his daughters, and Campion.

However, that story has resulted in the emergence of three genuine public-interest justifications.

The first is whether Joyce breached the ministerial code of conduct by employing his partner in his office. On this he has prevaricated, saying that his partner was not so employed. Here he was clearly referring to his wife, not Campion. In the circumstances, this was a distinction without a difference.

The second matter of public interest concerns the expenditure of public money on jobs said to have been found for Campion when her presence in Joyce’s office became untenable. Her salary is reported to be about A$190,000.




Read more:
Grattan on Friday: Turnbull’s excoriation of Joyce has changed the game, but how?


The third is whether the Prime Minister’s Office was informed of this or whether Joyce misled them by omission.

Once the story came out in The Daily Telegraph, the media as a whole piled into a story they had all known about for months. And they have done so with a kind of shamefaced gusto, making up for lost time.

How much better it would have been if someone – anyone – in the Canberra gallery had succeeded in establishing at least one of those substantial public-interest justifications and broken the story framed around that.

Instead, the story that broke was coloured by the salacious moralism beloved of tabloid newspapers since time began.

It featured a large picture of Campion, heavily pregnant, a gross violation of privacy if ever there was one.

The Telegraph breaks the story in a gross violation of privacy.
http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au

Here it was: the fruit of sin. The impregnated mistress, to borrow some of the vulgar moralising language that has disfigured the coverage.

The photo has been defended by The Daily Telegraph’s editor as proving the truth of the story that Barnaby Joyce had got his staffer pregnant. It proves nothing of the sort. It shows a woman pregnant. It says nothing about paternity.

Then on Valentine’s Day, The Daily Telegraph was at it again, this time with a page-one picture taken in 2016 in which Joyce and Campion are sitting next to each other at an official function.

Campion is in the foreground and Joyce, according to the caption, “eyes off” his media adviser. The headline says: “Bad look”.

There are many ways of interpreting this picture and headline. One of them is that Joyce had sexual designs on Campion back then, which from the caption is clearly the main message The Daily Telegraph wished to convey, regardless of truth or context.

The Daily Telegraph’s February 14 splash.
http://www.womensagenda.com.au

But the picture is also about Campion. Although she is oblivious of the glance from Joyce, the reader is given the opportunity to inspect her as the “other woman”: we get a good look at her face, her figure and her legs.

Put the “bad look” headline with that, and the reader is invited to draw negative conclusions about her appearance and her character.

This judgemental tone, redolent with sexual possibilities and consequences, is a throwback to the busybody moralising of the 1950s and 1960s.

Then – before the sexual revolution and the rise of second-wave feminism – it was a staple of middle-class morality to take a gossipy and often hurtful interest in marital breakdowns and pregnancies out of wedlock.




Read more:
Grattan on Friday: Is Barnaby’s baby a matter of ‘public interest’ or just of interest to the public?


So why is this throwback happening?

Professor Alison Dagnes, a political scientist at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania and editor of a textbook on sex scandals in American politics, proposes a theory that goes like this: there is a well-documented loss of trust in institutions, one consequence of which is that the public is inclined to regard all politicians as scumbags.

Digital technology has equipped everyone with a camera and social media has provided everyone with the means of publishing. This has created a competitiveness of unprecedented intensity among media.

Scandals pique everyone’s interest, even among those who are not usually interested in politics. So any scandal that shows politicians to be the scumbags we suspect, guarantees lots of “likes” and “shares” on social media, generating a frenzy in traditional media and opening up the scandal to instant and reiterative public judgements.

This, in turn, adds to public distrust in institutions.

To this theory might be added two more possible factors.

The first is the shift in norms of privacy induced by social media and the ubiquity of mobile phones with cameras. Old understandings of the boundaries between private and public have been obliterated and new ones have not yet taken their place.

The second is people’s sense of entitlement to pass judgement on matters of which they have personal experience: intimate relationships, the primary school curriculum, the quality of driving on the roads. This is not new, but it is a powerful driver of attitudes.

The ConversationDoubtless there are other factors, but whatever they are, Western society does appear to be in the grip of a new moralism, and the tabloid media are adept at making the most of it.

Denis Muller, Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Advancing Journalism, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Joyce fires broadside at Turnbull, as Coalition crisis deepens


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Barnaby Joyce has lashed out at Malcolm Turnbull, accusing him of “pulling the scab off” Joyce’s personal life and interfering in National Party affairs.

As the crisis within the Coalition over the Joyce affair deepens, Joyce held a news conference to respond to Turnbull’s Thursday denunciation of his personal behaviour.

Turnbull – who has announced a ban on sexual relationships between ministers and their staff – accused Joyce of a “shocking error of judgement” over his affair with his former staffer, Vikki Campion, who is now his pregnant partner.

Turnbull also said Joyce should “consider his own position”, in effect flagging he would like the deputy prime minister to stand down.

Joyce on Friday said Turnbull’s comments were “inept” and “unneccessary”.

“I listened to it and thought that it was completely unnecessary – all that is going to do is basically pull the scab off for everyone to have a look at.”

In regard to the National Party, “there is nothing that we dislike more than implied intervention into the party processes”.

“We are our own independent political unit – we make our own decisions, especially around those who are the office-holders.”

That outside interference “locks people in … behind the leader. So I would not be making comments or implied comments about the leadership of the Liberal Party, and we don’t expect to get implied comments about the leadership of the National Party.”

The plunge in relations between the two leaders is now threatening Coalition unity, with uncertainty about how the situation will play out. While Turnbull is putting pressure on Joyce to go, some Nationals predict it will be counter-productive, as Joyce is saying.

Visiting Tasmania, Turnbull told reporters: “Joyce has my confidence as deputy prime minister”.

But he also said: “Barnaby has been considering his position and I do not think there is any question about that, but I have not called on him to resign. I have not asked him to resign – he has to form his view on his circumstances.

“He has a lot to reflect on given what has happened, and I say again, he has made some big errors of judgement and he acknowledges that.”

Turnbull dodged attempts to pin him down on when he first learned of Joyce’s affair with Campion. “I can’t recall when I first heard rumours but I can say to you that he did not say to me that he was having an affair with this woman – I’m not going to go any further than that.”

Joyce said that he was intending to make sure his relationship with Turnbull “get backs onto an even keel”.

He again made it clear he has no plans to resign.

“My colleagues support me. This was a personal issue – a personal issue that has been dragged into the public arena and I don’t believe that people should be resigning in any job over personal issues.”

Later Friday, Turnbull, obviously alarmed about the increasing fracture between the Coalition partners, told reporters he had not sought in any way to influence the deliberations of the National Party.

“Neither I nor my colleagues have made any criticism of the National party.”

The ConversationHe said criticism of Joyce’s conduct was not criticism of the National Party.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Banning workplace romances won’t solve the problem of sexual misconduct in the office



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Malcolm Turnbull gave several justifications for his ban on ministers having sexual relationships with their staff.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Paula McDonald, Queensland University of Technology

The recent revelation of a sexual relationship between Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and a young woman working in his office has created considerable embarrassment for the government and those involved. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull responded by announcing that sexual relations between ministers and their staff will be prohibited under a change to the ministerial code of conduct.




Read more:
Turnbull announces sex ban – and signals Joyce should consider his position


Turnbull gave several justifications for the ban. These included that although ministers were entitled to privacy in personal matters, they must lead by example because they occupy positions of responsibility and trust.

Recently in the US, sexual relationships between Capitol Hill lawmakers and their staffers were prohibited in response to multiple scandals and in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

Inappropriate and unlawful sexual behaviour at work

To judge whether workplace relationship bans are an effective or appropriate response to alleged or actual sexual misconduct, we must first understand the difference between “inappropriate” sexual relationships and unlawful sexual behaviour.

Unlawful sexual conduct includes sexual abuse, sexual assault and sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is any unwanted or unwelcome sexual behaviour that makes someone feel offended, humiliated or intimidated. It is not interaction, flirtation or friendship that is mutual or consensual.

In contrast, inappropriate relationships – while not explicitly unlawful – are usually associated with unequal power relationships.




Read more:
What’s the difference between sexual abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment and rape?


Organisational codes of conduct often set out guidelines around the behaviour of supervisors and managers over their subordinates. A power imbalance between two employees may arise due to age, seniority or other factors, such as the capacity to influence outcomes.

The development of a sexual relationship in particular – even if it is apparently consensual – creates the potential for abuse of position, for damage to the less-empowered and potentially vulnerable individual, and for conflicts of interests to arise.

A common requirement in codes of employee conduct is for the person with the greater power to notify their supervisor of the relationship and immediately cease any decision-making role in respect of the subordinate. Such guidelines raise awareness of the potential for workplace relationships that may lead to later problems for those involved, and raise risks for organisational reputation and functioning.

By providing a clear course of action, such codes of conduct also acknowledge that workplace relationships do occur.

In contrast, outright bans on consensual sexual relationships at work are likely to be seen by many employees as over-reaching into their private lives. They may also perceive that it undermines their autonomy and dignity.

Retail fashion chain American Apparel recently introduced a policy barring managers from engaging in romantic relationships with employees over whom they had a perceived or actual influence. The policy also mandated the disclosure of such relationships – not to the person’s supervisor, but the human resources department.

Romantic relationships were defined broadly, and included both casual dating as well as committed relationships.

Public/private boundaries

In recent years, a considerable blurring of public/private boundaries in organisational life has occurred. Examples include the installation and monitoring of CCTV in workplaces, the enforcement of wearable surveillance devices that measure employees’ productivity in real time, and the “profiling” of job applicants through searches for private online information.

These employer actions have reshaped the boundaries between the relatively public sphere of work and the private lives of employees.

Workplace relationship bans may also be impractical and have unintended consequences. Many people meet their future partners at work or engage in short- or long-term consensual relationships that run their course.

The prospects of an employer effectively standing between two adults who are attracted to each other, or who fall in love, and preventing a relationship developing between them, seems slim.

Worse, bans may drive relationships underground. Employees who fear punitive consequences from ignoring a codified directive will likely conduct the relationship in secret. This may obfuscate loyalties and threaten the development of trust among co-workers. Engaging in a secretive relationship when those involved would prefer it was open may also prove stressful.

At its most extreme, regulating workplace relationships may damage women’s careers rather than contribute to them through a raising of professional standards.

Some male executives and senior politicians such as US Vice-President Mike Pence have been said to avoid working with women altogether to avoid being accused of inappropriate behaviour. This constrains opportunities for sensitive and strategic workplace discussions, and holds women back from key advancement opportunities.

Balancing competing interests

Joyce’s case raises several important issues insofar as preventing fall-out when colleagues engage in romantic and/or sexual relationships.

Banning relationships is likely to be ineffective and may result in disengagement, secrecy and resentment by employees of the encroachment of employment policies into genuinely private matters.

Outright bans also imply a connection between sexual misconduct and romantic relationships that is dubious at best. For example, although some sexual harassment cases arise following the breakdown of a former consensual relationship, most do not.

Preventing and redressing sexual harassment and achieving gender equality requires far more nuanced and multi-faceted approaches.

However, relationships of unequal power clearly need to be carefully managed to avoid the harmful consequences that may result for those involved. This can be achieved through carefully crafted and implemented policies and practices that raise awareness among employees of expectations about professional behaviour and where the greatest risks lie.

However, power comes in many forms. And it can only be judged on the basis of the particular circumstances and people involved.

Policies must also be sensitive to balancing the competing interests of employees and employers. This includes employees’ interests in privacy and autonomy, and employer interests in promoting workplace harmony and avoiding reputational damage.

The ConversationResponses need to also acknowledge the reality that relationships between consenting adults are an inevitable and almost certainly enduring feature of many contemporary workplaces. Attempting to ban them is unlikely to be a panacea.

Paula McDonald, Professor of Work and Organisation, Queensland University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Grattan on Friday: Turnbull’s excoriation of Joyce has changed the game, but how?


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

In the most spectacular manner, Malcolm Turnbull has publicly trashed his relationship with Barnaby Joyce.

The results of what one Nationals source described as Turnbull’s “roll of the dice” at Thursday’s extraordinary news conference are unpredictable.

Turnbull gave his deputy prime minister no notice of the swingeing attack he would launch on Joyce’s extramarital affair with his former staffer, Vikki Campion, now his pregnant partner.

Joyce had made a “shocking error of judgement”, Turnbull said, which had “set off a world of woe” for all the women affected and “appalled all of us”.

Turnbull was announcing he was putting a sex ban into the ministerial code of conduct. He’d consulted his colleagues on that. But it was the excoriation of Joyce that came out of the blue, stunning the Nationals.

After a week-and-a-half of political hell, Joyce was already in about as bad a place as one can imagine a politician might be, short of the dock of a courtroom.

Turnbull all but disowned him – as far as a Liberal prime minister can do with the leader of the Coalition’s minor party. It was clear Turnbull would just like Joyce to stand down.

Joyce had already been dispatched on gardening leave for next week, when he was due to be acting prime minister. Turnbull said he had “encouraged” him to take leave.

That in itself said it all. If Joyce is too much of a political handicap to undertake the routine duties of acting prime minister, it is hard to argue he’s up to being deputy prime minister.

Within the Nationals Joyce shored up his position on Wednesday to give himself a chance of rehabilitation. But after Turnbull’s character reference, he might as well wear a sandwich board saying: “I’m a terrible person”.

After days of the opposition and media trawling through the work arrangements for Campion, and the free accommodation in Armidale Joyce got from a local businessman, Turnbull says Joyce has given him “an unequivocal assurance” he hasn’t breached ministerial standards.

With abundant caution Turnbull quotes Joyce’s word, rather than his own judgement, and there’s been no independent assessment.

Maybe Joyce has been within the code. But now Turnbull has made it clear – after initially wanting to keep away from Joyce’s private life – that he believes the Nationals leader has breached decent moral standards and he has decided to call him out on that.

A week ago, Turnbull was describing the Joyce imbroglio as “a deeply personal matter relating to Barnaby Joyce and his family”. On Thursday he radiated absolute disgust at the sordid saga.

Turnbull’s approach went from initially staying solid with Joyce by saying as little as possible to letting him have it with both barrels.

It went from dismissing a proposal from crossbencher Cathy McGowan for a “conversation” about workplace relations in parliament to slapping on a sex ban that doesn’t even exempt a minister who’s single.

What changed? The story had gone from something potentially containable to a cluster bomb damaging the whole government, and presumably feeding into the next Newspoll.

In particular, it threatened a dangerous backlash among women. Turnbull has pitched the ban on sexual relationships between ministers and their staff with a heavy gender emphasis. “Most of the ministers, most of the bosses in this building” were men, he said.

The ban is similar to that recently passed by the US House of Representatives, although that is legislated and this is not.

Remember Julie Bishop’s reaction to the American ban – “we wouldn’t want to cross the line so that the moral police were able to dictate what happens between consenting adults”. Turnbull has put his policeman’s helmet on.

Joyce started Thursday deeply wounded. He ended the day bleeding even more heavily. The stories won’t let up. He faces the firing line again when the House of Representatives resumes the week after next. He’ll also be pursued in Senate estimates.

His office is inundated daily with slews of media questions; he lives with the knowledge that fresh damaging information could destroy him.

Imagine his political life from now. Travelling regional Australia’s back blocks will be downright embarrassing, as he wonders what those women offering cups of tea are thinking.

As well, he’ll be dealing with the demands of his new domestic circumstances – including the glare of publicity around the baby, arriving within weeks – as well as the legacies of leaving his old home life.

The Nationals are in an appalling situation.

They’ve stuck by Joyce – they think he’s the best they’ve got and their default position is loyalty. They’ve given him time. But logically, they should bring forward their assessment of the chances of his getting back on his feet.

Assuming they are slight, the party would be better to face the fact quickly and give a new leader – who’d likely be the little known Michael McCormack, a junior minister – maximum time before the election.

But that’s where Turnbull’s “roll of the dice” comes in. The Nationals this week were prickly about perceived meddling from the Liberals. They don’t like outside interference. How will they react to Turnbull’s assault? Will they dig in further behind Joyce?

And then there’s Joyce himself – stubborn and presumably desperate. He’s not so far shown any sign of giving in under political and personal pressure that would drive most leaders out. He’s relying on being able to keep his grip on the parliamentary numbers.

“He’s not like everyone else – he’s a different cat,” says a colleague.

The ConversationJoyce is fighting like a cornered tiger to hang onto the position he coveted for so long. It’s not clear whether Turnbull’s denunciation has harmed or helped his chances. Or how, in the immediate future, he and Turnbull can work together.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Turnbull announces sex ban – and signals Joyce should consider his position


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Malcolm Turnbull has announced that, from now, sexual relations between ministers and their staff will be prohibited under a change he has made to the ministerial code of conduct.

Addressing a news conference late on Thursday, Turnbull also strongly hinted he would like to see Barnaby Joyce step down.

Joyce had made “a shocking error of judgement in having an affair with a young woman working in his office”. In doing so he had set off a “world of woe” for his wife, daughters and indeed his new partner, and had “appalled all of us”.

When asked why he wouldn’t urge Joyce to resign, Turnbull pointed out that he was leader of the minor party in the Coalition.

But his preference was clear. “Barnaby has acknowledged his fault, his error, his grief about his conduct. He has to consider his own position obviously. These are matters for Barnaby Joyce to reflect on.”

Earlier Turnbull told parliament that when he visits the US next week, Senate leader Mathias Cormann – not Joyce – would be acting prime minister.

Turnbull said the ban on sexual relationships would apply even if the minister was single.

The ban parallels a prohibition last week passed by the US House of Representatives – although that was included in legislation while this is only in the ministerial code, and is only enforceable politically not legally.

It also follows a call by crossbencher Cathy McGowan last week for a “conversation” about conduct between MPs and their staff. Her call was dismissed at the time.

Turnbull said then: “Members of parliament, ministers all have to be accountable for their actions. As grown-ups, we are all accountable for our actions. Relations between consenting adults is not something that normally, you would be justified in, if you like, seeking to regulate.”

But government sources said Turnbull had been working on the sex ban all week.

Turnbull told his news conference the Joyce affair had raised “some very serious issues about the culture of this place, of this parliament”.

He said the present ministerial code was “truly deficient”.

“It does not speak strongly enough for the values that we should all live, values of respect, respectful workplaces – of workplaces where women are respected.”

He said this respect in workplaces was not entirely a gender issue. But “most of the ministers, most of the bosses in this building” were men and “there is a real gender perspective here”.

He said that whatever people might have turned a blind eye to in years past, in 2018 it was not acceptable for a minister to have a sexual relationship with someone who worked for them.

“It’s a very bad workplace practice. And everybody knows that no good comes of it.

The Conversation“Of course you know what attitudes in the corporate world and elsewhere are to this kind of thing. So, it is about time that this change was made. Probably should have been made a long time ago.”

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Barnaby Joyce dumped as acting prime minister next week


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Malcolm Turnbull has delivered an effective vote of no-confidence in Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, announcing he will not be acting prime minister next week, but instead will go on a week’s leave.

This follows Turnbull telling parliament twice earlier this week that the Nationals leader would act in his place when he visits the US next week.

The acting prime minister will be Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, who is the government’s Senate leader. Joyce will be on leave for a week from Monday.

The Liberals’ deputy leader, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, would normally be next in line, but she is scheduled to be overseas. She did offer to cancel those arrangements, but that option was not taken up.

On Wednesday Joyce shored up his support within the Nationals to continue as leader, but on Thursday he was seriously on the back foot.

In parliament, the opposition pursued his relations with businessman Greg Maguire, who provided him with an Armidale apartment free of rent for six months, worth a total of about A$12,000.

Joyce said that when his marriage had broken down and he was standing for the New England byelection, Maguire approached him and in the discussion offered the accommodation. He had said he would pay, but this was refused by Maguire, Joyce told parliament. He said “he didn’t have to worry about it because I was a mate.”

Maguire has previously told two journalists that Joyce had made the initial approach.

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The opposition also asked about a $5,000 payment made by an agency under Joyce’s then-agriculture portfolio to a Maguire business for a 2016 Agricultural Industry Advisory Council dinner at an Armidale hotel that the businessman owns.

Joyce said he did not know about the payment. “Obviously decisions in the vicinity of $5,000 don’t generally go across the minister’s table.”

The Senate late Thursday passed by 35-29 a Greens-Labor motion calling “on the deputy prime minister to resign from his position … for clearly breaching the standards required of ministers; and if he does not resign, calls on the National Party to sack him as leader.”

The ConversationEarlier, the opposition failed in an attempt to have the House of Representatives call on Turnbull “to immediately sack” Joyce for “clearly breaching the prime minister’s statement of ministerial standards”.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Nationals rally behind Joyce’s leadership but he is on notice


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Barnaby Joyce has secured his colleagues’ backing to hang onto his leadership and Malcolm Turnbull has flagged he will be acting prime minister next week, despite the potential for this to cause further distraction for the government.

Although he is safe for now, Joyce is essentially on notice as leader.

In the short term, he is hostage to any new serious revelations in the media, and in the medium term, to his party’s assessment about whether he has become a political negative, as a result of his affair with his former staffer Vikki Campion, who is expecting his child.

Over the last few days Nationals MPs have been divided between a minority who wanted to force him to quit, his supporters who regard him as the party’s strongest asset, and those uncertain about what should be done.

Joyce is said to be very aware of the hurt in the party and the fact that he has to work to mend the political damage he has caused.

After a week of mounting crisis since the story broke, and intense internal discussions among Nationals MPs and by Joyce with his colleagues, senior Nationals went out in the media on Wednesday to strongly support the status quo.

Joyce’s recently elected deputy, Bridget McKenzie, who had been previously silent, told Sky she’d give “my absolute rolled gold guarantee … that come tomorrow, come Friday, Barnaby Joyce will be leading the National Party”.

Asked what she had to say to the women in the party, she said: “Look, there is an unease I think for all of us, looking at this as a woman.

“But I think we also have to recognise that we are realists. These things happen, in every family, in every town, in every workplace, across the country. It’s whether it impacts on his ability to deliver …

“So yes, there may be a bit of uncomfortableness around his personal life at the moment, but in terms of delivering, what does a woman want out of her parliamentarians and politicians? She wants us to come up here and work our backsides off delivering for them and for her family. That’s what he does.”

Nationals whip Michelle Landry said: “Barnaby will remain our leader. He has done a lot for us, particularly in regional Australia and I think we should give him a fair go with it.”

David Littleproud, promoted by Joyce to cabinet in December, said Joyce would continue to have the support of the Nationals’ partyroom.

In parliament, Bill Shorten asked Turnbull whether he still retained confidence in Joyce and “when the prime minister is overseas next week, will the deputy prime minister be the acting prime minister of Australia?”

Turnbull was as brief as he was previously, when he answered both questions with a yes. “You asked me earlier in the week, and the answer is the same as it was earlier in the week,” he said.

Some Liberals have been unhappy at the prospect of Joyce being acting prime minister when Turnbull visits the US, believing he will be pursued by the media, creating more bad publicity.

But not to have him acting prime minister would amount to a vote of no confidence in him.

The opposition pursued Joyce’s accommodation arrangements in his New England electorate where businessman Greg Maguire, his friend, provided him with six months’ free accommodation, worth some A$12,000, in an Armidale townhouse.

Labor plans to delve into the staffing arrangements made for Campion when Senate estimates are held the week after next.

After 24 hours in Canberra calming the troops, the Nationals’ federal president Larry Anthony said: “I think the vast majority of the parliamentary team are supportive of Barnaby.”

The ConversationHe said it was now important that the Nationals MPs “get back into their constituencies over the next week – people want to see them working and supporting their communities”.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Why social media is in the doghouse for both the pollies and the public


Denis Muller, University of Melbourne

The Labor Party’s recent decision to ban its candidates from using their own social media accounts as publicity platforms at the next federal election may be a sign that society’s infatuation with social media as a source of news and information is cooling.

Good evidence for this emerged recently with the publication of the 2018 findings from the Edelman Trust Barometer. The annual study has surveyed more than 33,000 people across the globe about how much trust they have in institutions, including government, media, businesses and NGOs.

This year, there was a sharp increase in trust in journalism as a source of news and information, and a decline in trust in social media and search engines for this purpose. Globally, trust in journalism rose five points to 59%, while trust in social media and search engines fell two points to 51% – a gap of eight points.

In Australia, the level of trust in both was below the global average. But the 17 point gap between them was greater – 52% for journalism and 35% for social media and search engines.




Read more:
Social media is changing the face of politics – and it’s not good news


Consequences of poor social media savvy

Labor’s decision may also reflect a healthy distrust of its candidates’ judgement about how to use social media for political purposes.

Liberal Senator Jim Molan’s recent sharing of an anti-Islamic post by the British right-wing extremist group Britain First on his Facebook account showed how poor some individual judgements can be.

If ever there was a two-edged sword in politics, social media is it. It gives politicians a weapon with which to cut their way past traditional journalistic gatekeepers and reach the public directly, but it also exposes them to public scrutiny with a relentless intensity that previous generations of politicians never had to endure.

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This intensity comes from two sources: the 24/7 news cycle with the associated nonstop interaction between traditional journalism and social media, and the opportunity that digital technology gives everyone to jump instantaneously into public debate.

So Molan’s stupidity, for example, now attracts criticism from the other side of the world. Brendan Cox, the widower of a British politician, Jo Cox, who was murdered by a man yelling “Britain first”, has weighed in.

The interaction between traditional journalism and social media also means journalists can latch onto stories much more quickly because there are countless pairs of eyes and ears out there tipping them off.




Read more:
Social media can bring down politicians, but can it also make politics better?


The result of this scrutiny is that public figures can never be sure they are off-camera, as it were. This means there has been a significant reduction in their power to control the flow of information about themselves. They are liable to be “on the record” anywhere there is a mic or a smartphone – and may not even know it.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton is caught on a boom mic quipping about the plight of Pacific Island nations facing rising seas from climate change.

Politics then and now

On Sunday night, the ABC aired part one of the two-part documentary Bob Hawke: The Larrikin and the Leader. In it, Graham Richardson says of Hawke:

He did some appalling things when drunk … He was lucky that he went through an era where he couldn’t be pinged. We didn’t have the internet. We didn’t have mobile phones. Let’s face it, a Bob Hawke today behaving in the same manner would never become prime minister. He’d have been buried long before he got near the parliament.

Would we now think differently of a politician like Bob Hawke if some of his well-documented excesses had been captured and circulated on social media in this way?

Perhaps not. Hawke was of his time, an embodiment of the national mood and of what Australians imagine to be the national larrikin character. He might have thrived.

Hawke is still celebrated for his ability to scull a beer.

With Hawke, what you saw was what you got. So he had a built-in immunity to social media’s particular strength: its capacity to show people up as ridiculous, dishonest or hypocritical.

And his political opponent Malcolm Fraser was, in his later years, adept at using Twitter to criticise the government of one of his Liberal successors as Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.

Yet by exerting the iron discipline for which he was famous, saying exactly what he wanted to say and not a word more, Fraser avoided the pitfalls that the likes of Senator Molan stumble into.

Indeed, US President Donald Trump’s reputation for Twitter gaffes hasn’t hurt his popularity among his base, and is even lauded by some as a mark of authenticity.

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So it is likely that the politicians of the past would not have fared very differently from those of the present. The competent would have adapted and used social media to their advantage; the incompetent would have been shown up for what they are.




Read more:
Why social media may not be so good for democracy


Social platforms under fire

Social media has the potential to strengthen democratic life. It makes all public figures – including journalists – more accountable. But as we have seen, especially in the 2016 US presidential elections, it can also be used to weaken democratic life by amplifying the spread of false information.

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As a result, democracies everywhere are wrestling with the overarching problem of how to make the giant social media platforms, especially Facebook, accountable for how they use their publishing power.

The ConversationOut of all this, one trend seems clear: where news and information is concerned, society is no longer dazzled by the novelty of social media and is wakening to its weaknesses.

Denis Muller, Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Advancing Journalism, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Nationals president urges party: don’t act hastily on Joyce


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The Nationals’ federal president, Larry Anthony, has appealed to the party to give Barnaby Joyce “time”, as Joyce’s future sits on a knife-edge.

Anthony, who flew to Canberra for talks on the crisis late Tuesday, said afterwards: “It’s been an extraordinarily difficult time for the National Party, and clearly for Barnaby Joyce and his family, and for the government.

“It’s important people think very carefully about making any significant decisions. You are never wise to make decisions in the heat of the moment. Barnaby should be given time.”

With speculation on Tuesday about whether he’d last the week, Joyce’s greatest protection in the short term remained the absence of a strong alternative. The atmosphere in Coalition ranks was fevered, with the pressure all the greater because Joyce is due to become acting prime minister next week, a prospect that appals many Liberals. No-one knows what the next media story might bring.

Joyce on Tuesday morning issued multiple apologies, as he desperately tried to contain the damage of his affair with former staffer Vikki Campion, who is expecting his child.

He was “deeply sorry” for the hurt he’d caused his wife and daughters, and “deeply sorry” Campion had been dragged into the controversy. The message to supporters and his electorate was that he was “deeply sorry” a personal issue had gone into the public arena.

Later there was a further apology in the Coalition partyroom, essentially for the trouble he’s caused.

“Every political career has a time of trial,” Joyce told the meeting, adding he was determined to work through his situation. He thanked colleagues for their solidarity.

To the extent there was solidarity, it was driven by necessity.

Angry Liberals are powerless – they have no say in who is Nationals leader.

A report that Malcolm Turnbull was ringing around senior Nationals was denied – Turnbull is said to have returned a call from a National who called him. A Liberal leader wading into a Nationals leadership matter would be as risky as jumping into crocodile waters.

The Nationals’ situation is perfectly described by the “rock-and-hard-place” cliché.

They have a diminished leader, discredited among their conservative base. But the alternatives are less than optimal for a small party that needs strong leadership to extract more for the bush than its numbers would justify.

Resources Minister Matt Canavan is a senator and so not an option. Darren Chester, whom Joyce dumped from cabinet in December, is a Victorian (and a social moderate) – if he were elevated, Bridget McKenzie would have to go from the deputyship because a party with its heartland further north couldn’t have two Victorians at the top.

That leaves Michael McCormack, from New South Wales, solid but not popular enough with his colleagues even to win the deputyship in recent ballots.

On anything to do with the Joyce issue Turnbull’s approach – in the partyroom, in parliament and in the media – is, figuratively, to hold his nose and point his finger at the culprit.

Turnbull on Tuesday again had to answer a batch of questions in parliament including about the definition of a “partner” for the purposes of the ministerial code.

That code bans “partners” working in ministerial offices. Joyce said on Tuesday that Campion was “without a shadow of doubt” his partner now but she wasn’t when she was on his staff.

“Partner is not defined in the relevant ministerial standards,” Turnbull said, directing attention to the definition used by the Department of Human Services.

The Human Services website says:

To determine if you’re a member of a couple … we’ll consider the following factors: financial aspects of your relationship; nature of your household; social aspects of your relationship; if you have a sexual relationship; nature of your commitment to each other.

Turnbull told parliament that “Centrelink considers a person to be in a de facto relationship from the time they commence living with another person as a member of a couple.”

The Joyce issue, however, has now gone beyond the detail of the arrangements made for Campion to move offices, and the like. As one journalist put it, it’s become “the vibe”. In many minds, a question of character.

Joyce’s present imbroglio is bringing out allegations of past tacky behaviour. A woman contacted the ABC on Tuesday recounting a strange incident that allegedly occurred at an early-evening cocktail party, hosted by the Collections Council (a peak body for galleries, libraries etc), in Parliament House in 2009 or 2010.

Joyce, then a senator, was one of the few politicians there. The woman, a senior academic and a director of the (now-defunct) council, says she chatted to him – he was charming and merry but not drunk. He gave her his card. When they parted “he grabbed my buttock and squeezed it,” the woman, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Conversation.

She said that before Tuesday she’d only related the incident to her family. A story in the Murdoch papers about alleged bottom-pinching elsewhere – totally denied by Joyce – prompted her to speak out. Joyce’s office said of her claim that it was “being asked to comment on an anonymous person who has never made a complaint”.

The ConversationJoyce, for all his campaigning strengths, has always been unpredictable, a potential time-bomb. He steadied and focused as he concentrated on pursuing the leadership and then in his earlier days in it. Now the time-bomb has exploded and the Nationals are in a deep funk, not knowing what to do.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Queensland Nationals Barry O’Sullivan’s advice on the Joyce affair: ‘don’t shoot your best horse’


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Outspoken Queensland Nationals senator Barry O’Sullivan has declared Barnaby Joyce a “once-in-a-generation type of politician” who remains a big asset to the Nationals despite the sharp grassroots reaction to his affair with his former staffer.

With some Nationals reeling from the backlash to the revelations amid speculation about Joyce’s future, O’Sullivan went on the front foot on Monday night.

“We’ve not seen any government that has done more for the bush than this one, with Barnaby Joyce as deputy prime minister,” he told The Conversation.

“I don’t want to lose one of the best politicians we’ve had in my lifetime. Are you going to shoot your best horse because he jumped the fence and was found in the neighbour’s paddock?”

O’Sullivan’s strong defence came as Malcolm Turnbull was forced in parliament to express his confidence in Joyce.

When Opposition Leader Bill Shorten asked Turnbull whether Joyce would be acting prime minister when Turnbull visits the US next week, and whether he still retained confidence in Joyce, Turnbull kept his answer as brief as possible.

“Yes in response to both questions,” he said.

Turnbull is known to be furious with Joyce, whose affair with Vikki Campion, now expecting his child, has dominated headlines and distracted the government since the story broke in the Daily Telegraph mid-last week.

Turnbull and his office struggled on Monday to avoid being ensnared, as questions were put about the movement of Campion, who was shifted to the office of Resources Minister Matt Canavan after her relationship with Joyce started to cause problems in his office. Later she took up a position in the office of then Nationals whip Damian Drum. She left government at the end of last year.

Under the ministerial code of conduct, a minister’s “close relatives and partners are not to be appointed to positions in their ministerial or electorate offices and must not be employed in the offices of other members of the executive government without the prime minister’s express approval”.

The opposition asked whether Turnbull or his office was involved in creating a new position last year in either Canavan’s or Drum’s office.

Turnbull said he was advised the Nationals were provided with a number of personal staff positions as a share of the government’s overall staffing pool. “The distribution of those staff members between Nationals’ offices is a matter for the National Party,” he said.

“I’m further advised that at no time did the Nationals fill all vacant staffing positions.”

The government is arguing that Turnbull was never officially informed that Campion was the partner of Joyce – who remained married to Natalie Joyce – and so the question of prime ministerial approval did not arise.

O’Sullivan said the Nationals base had expressed disappointment and frustration at Joyce’s behaviour.

“But no-one is challenging his ability to do the great job he has done,” O’Sullivan said. “Do we want to chip away at him until he’s gone?”

O’Sullivan, who said he was not personally close to Joyce, has a reputation as a straight talker. Last year he spearheaded the backbench Nationals move that led to the government capitulating to pressure for a royal commission into the banks, which commenced on Monday. He was critical of Joyce’s demotion of fellow Queenslander Keith Pitt in the December reshuffle.

Treasurer Scott Morrison told the ABC on Monday night: “There’s no-one I know in the parliament who is a stronger advocate for rural and regional Australia.

“While events regarding Barnaby’s private life … are disappointing, most importantly to his family and others, that doesn’t change the fact that Barnaby, over a long period of time in his public life, has dedicated himself to public service and the people he represents.”

The ConversationAsked about the code’s provision about partners not being employed without prime ministerial approval, Morrison said Joyce “can’t have two partners at the same time and he was obviously still married”.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.