The weird psychology of Barnaby Joyce and the Right

Oh, for a skilled political journalist to have handled the Channel 7 interview with former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and his former staffer turned partner Vicki Campion last night. Then maybe we would have had some answers to the questions that really matter - or at least had those questions asked in the first place. Because the real issues here aren't who fell in love with whom, or even what was said in the public confrontation between Joyce, Campion and Barnaby's ex wife Natalie. The questions that needed to be asked - relating to the integrity of our democracy - were ones like "why was a special role in Matt Canavan's office created for Vikki Campion once news of the affair began to circulate around Canberra?" and "Barnaby, considering that it was your fault voters in New England were forced to a byelection because you couldn't get your citizenship sorted out, was it ethical for you to then pretend everything was okay at home when you knew at that stage that the pregnancy was going to cost you your role as Deputy PM?"

In case you've not seen enough already. Source: Channel 7

Instead, what we got was something in the ball park between fluff piece and the full on car crash that was the Four Corners expose of Kathy Jackson and Michael Lawler (which I admit I watched 3 or 4 times). This was more of a minor prang than a write off, as crashes go. But what struck me as the strangest thing was a little softball piece tucked in towards the end, after the yucky stuff was out of the way, as 7 journalist Alex Cullen asked the proud new dad how he'd feel if his son wanted to enter politics. If that's what he wanted to do, I'd try to get on board, Barnaby said. But what if baby Sebastian wanted to join the Greens, Cullen asked? Barnaby Joyce shook his head. He'd wonder where he went wrong as a father for such a ghastly thing to happen.

And that might be completely understandable for this homespun, "country bred", conservative politician. Except for the fact that earlier in the interview, we'd seen Campion and Joyce describe how, early in Campion's pregnancy, figures from the National party had approached Campion and told her she had to abort the pregnancy, or "they're gonna come after you". Barnaby Joyce then described these National party politicians, whom he still sits in parliament with, as the scum of the Earth.

In other words, it was people from his own, conservative side of politics who had threatened his vulnerable, pregnant partner. And yet instead of distancing himself from these people, vowing off the National party after core members of it cause his family so much pain, Barnaby remains part of the party, worried he'd have gone wrong if his son wanted to join...the Greens. I don't get. Why would you side with the people who hurt you against the ones who wished you no harm? Why would you not be able to see that the way these National party figures behave in the lives of those around them is symbolic of the ideology they have for the country you claim to care about? Barnaby Joyce is just on the edge of awareness here, so he's screwing his eyes shut, sticking his fingers in his ears and singing to himself at the top of his lungs.

But he's not the first right wing politician to stubbornly take the ideological side of those who have caused them pain. Witness Pauline Hanson last week on Sky News, crying that fellow One Nation Senator Brian Burston had stabbed her in the back in a disagreement over company tax and his potential defection to the Shooters party. It's hardly first time Hanson has been let down by those on her ideological side, either. She's had a running feud for many years with her One Nation co-founder David Oldfield, slinging insults, allegations and innuendo. Conservative "hard man" Tony Abbott led the drive to have Hanson imprisoned on corruption charges in 2003. Right wing muck rag the Daily Telegraph got very mucky indeed in 2009 when they published a front page exclusive of nude photos of Hanson that, it turned out, weren't actually pictures of Ms Hanson at all.

And yet Hanson has never quite twigged that the nastiness she's received from the Right is emblematic of a bigger problem; that the Right is nasty. It's the ideology of ends justify the means, screw you I've got mine, survival of the fittest, and to hell with facts or's the exact opposite of an ideology that would help the struggling Australians that she claims to care so much about. Now I doubt Pauline Hanson can even spell ideology, but despite the fact that it has been adherents of the right who have hurt her over and over again, she keeps lining up for more. She's best friends with Cory Bernardi; inviting Tony Abbott to help flog her latest ghost written "book"; continuing to believe and share the lies of the conservative gutter press despite falling victim herself. Her sworn enemies are the Labor party, and especially, the Greens, who have harmed her not at all.

It's an odd psychological trait of the right, to be loving your oppressors and hating the oppressed, or at least those who, whilst they may be on the other side of politics, have done you no harm. Maybe it's just part of the tribalism of modern politics; yes, these people have lied about me, lied to me, taken advantage of me, threatened my family, thrown me in jail, they're shits, but they're our shits, conservative shits. Maybe we can take solace that whilst the right hates and screws over the electorate, they hate and screw over themselves much more. 

And Barnaby Joyce? Look, I'm not sure the Greens would be rushing to welcome you right now (he's been rightly criticised for saying his six week son caused all the problems, as if none of the extra marital affair, lies to electorate and whiff of corruption would have been a problem if he hadn't knocked his girlfriend up). But for God's sake, get out of the Nationals.