The journalist who exposed Barnaby Joyce’s love affair with his former media adviser says the former deputy prime minister “deserved every ounce of scrutiny” he received.
Speaking on ABC’s Q&A, the Daily Telegraph’s national political editor Sharri Markson defended her decision to reveal that Mr Joyce was expecting a child with Vikki Campion.
She was asked why Mr Joyce did not deserve the same level of privacy as the young women working out of Labor leader Bill Shorten’s office, who Liberal minister Michaelia Cash threatened to reveal rumours about during a Senate Estimates hearing last week.
“They are two completely different topics,” Ms Markson said.
“In the one instance with Michaelia Cash, she threatened to name young women who are the subject of rumour where nothing had been proven at all and they are not public figures, and it’s not even true as far as I’m aware.
— ABC Q&A (@QandA) March 5, 2018
“In the other instance you had the deputy prime minister of the country, the second most powerful politician who fills in for the prime minister as acting PM when he’s away, who has conservative family values, has campaigned against same-sex marriage, has campaigned against the Gardasil vaccine because it might make women more promiscuous.
“You’ve got this conservative figure, deputy prime minister who has left his wife and four daughters for a media advisor who is now pregnant, and not only that but then authorised, he signed off on the creation of new jobs for her with two politicians within his own party, while living for six months in a free rental from a National Party donor.
“Barnaby Joyce, when he was deputy prime minister, deserved every ounce of scrutiny that we in the media applied to him. His family didn’t and we were very respectful to his wife and his four daughters, we never once hassled them.
“But he, in that role, deserved every ounce of scrutiny.”
She added that Senator Cash’s comments could deter women from entering politics.
“It was a brutal wake-up call for young, she called them young women — they’re not all young — who work in Bill Shorten’s office,” she said.
“Why would they enter a career in politics? Why would the next generation want to, if by the former minister for women they’re going to be accused of these unsubstantiated slurs? It is so inappropriate and such a difficult environment anyway for women.”
— ABC Q&A (@QandA) March 5, 2018
Fellow Q&A panelist Greens leader Richard Di Natale also denounced Ms Cash’s comments, which were “unreservedly withdrawn” a day later.
He said Parliament’s “toxic, macho culture” made it a tough place for women and lambasted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for defending Senator Cash’s comments.
“The Prime Minister only a few weeks ago stood up and said to Australians, ‘We need to create a more respectful work environment, particularly for women’,” Mr Di Natale said.
“When he needed to stand up and show some leadership, to condemn those comments and ensure that Michaelia Cash apologised, he defended those comments.”
Meanwhile, deputy leader of the opposition Tanya Plibersek said she had male mentors when she joined Parliament but Senator Cash’s comments could jeopardise those sorts of professional relationships.
“If you’re a man seen alone with a young woman now, the assumption is automatically to this rumour stuff. That’s a real problem,” she said.
“It’s not just about more equal representation of women and men — it’s different ages, different work backgrounds and family backgrounds. It’s having a Parliament that looks more like the Australian people. That should be the goal that every political party sets itself and the Parliament sets itself.”