By Stephanie Sardinha
You’d have to have been living under a rock for the past couple of weeks if you haven’t heard of the whole Barnaby Joyce scandal. The former leader of the National Party stepped down a few days ago amidst the controversy over the affair he allegedly had with his former staffer. Australian politics had turned into what appeared to be a never ending soap opera, with all sides of politics quickly turning on Barnaby Joyce to criticise his actions. The lines quickly became blurred between what was moral condemnation vs. an opportunity to streak ahead in the polls.
Perhaps that is why this issue has perpetuated as far as it has. The biggest concern when the Daily News broke the story was whether or not Barnaby Joyce would be able to perform despite his new family. And yet, I find it highly ironic that it was the media storm that became his biggest distraction from running the country.
Now almost everyone has a moral opinion on this- and to each their own. But we need to decide as a society: at what level do we hold our politicians?
It’s a double edged sword. On the one hand, many Australians are apathetic to the details of policy, whether it be foreign affairs, the economy or social welfare. We don’t follow the professional actions of our politicians in the same way we would follow the new music produced from a singer, or the new movies that are starred in by an actor.
But we still invade the private lives of politicians in the same way pop-culture celebrities are treated. They are given the same level of accountability in that respect, and quite often, in that respect only. Ideally, majority of them enter the political spotlight with the intention of representing their electorate, rather than with the aim of ‘getting famous’. They do not sign up for their private lives nor their moral compasses to be exposed for us all to judge and condemn, particularly when it inhibits their ability to fulfil their job. And thus, our politicians, from all points on the political compass are entitled to privacy.
The moment that public discourse decides to not focus of the trivial details of our politicians lives, is the moment that Australian politics can become productive.