Barnaby Joyce scandal thrusts Australian politics back into international headlines

The Deputy PM's transgressions have made headlines worldwide.

The Deputy PM's transgressions have made headlines worldwide.

The Barnaby Joyce scandal has thrust Australia into the world’s headlines again – after two years of respite from Abbott-era global embarrassments.

This story is huge. Headlines include:

“Deputy PM Joyce’s affair with staffer grips Australia”

“Sex scandal opens rift in embattled Australia government”

“Pressure mounts on Australia deputy PM over sex scandal”

“Australian deputy PM denies breaking parliamentary rules over affair”

“Australia PM bans sex between ministers and staff after deputy’s ‘shocking’ affair”

“Cracks widen in Australian coalition as deputy PM calls Turnbull ‘inept'”

“Australia’s PM meets deputy to fix sex-scandal split”

“Australia’s scandal-hit deputy PM to take leave”

And that’s just in Malaysia.

Most articles state the basic facts, often with reference to hypocrisy regarding conservative values. But some emphasise different elements from others.

Argentina’s Infobae ran a full pictorial with eight large photos of all participants. Few words were needed, as the heading pretty much told the story: “Un escándalo sexual sacude al Gobierno de Australia, y el premier prohibió las relaciones íntimas entre ministros y empleados”. (A sexual scandal shakes the Australian Government, and the prime minister banned intimate relationships between ministers and staff.)

To Europe Press in Spain, the fact that Mr Joyce was “un católico practicante” was significant:

“Joyce, a practicing Catholic who has campaigned on numerous occasions for ‘family values’, is under immense pressure …”

This article noted that Mr Joyce had asked his wife and daughters for forgiveness – pedir perdón – for the damage caused”.

Belgium’s 7sur7 described Mr Joyce as hypocritical “for defending the values ​​of traditional marriage and opposing the recent law on same-sex marriage adopted in Australia”.

Japan’s AFPBB News emphasised his “shocking judgement mistake”.

In France, Le Figaro ignored the matter until Malcolm Turnbull banned parliamentary sex: “Le premier ministre australien interdit les liaisons entre ministres et collaborateurs”. (Australian prime minister bans liaisons between ministers and staffers.)

screenshot of a translated Japanese news article

Japanese media described Barnaby Joyce’s affair as a “shocking judgement mistake”

L’Express in France highlighted the ban on sex, then reminded readers of Mr Joyce’s earlier “notoriété internationale”, when he threatened to euthanise American actor Johnny Depp’s dogs after entering Australia illegally in 2015.

Germany’s Die Welt focused on the material aspects of the scandal rather than the moral:

“Recently, it has come to light that they live together rent-free in the home of a wealthy political financier … In addition to the affair, Joyce is also accused of having given his girlfriend two jobs after leaving the office, including with another minister.”

Italy’s Il Post also reported the perception of jobs for the girl: “Most of the allegations of the scandal were concentrated on this point: Campion left Joyce’s staff last April to go to work for Matthew Canavan … [and later] Damian Drum, a liberal parliamentarian.”

Other Italian outlets stressed Mr Turnbull’s office sex ban. These included Il Giornale, Il Foglio, Europa, La Stampa and Corriere.

In Ireland, where fragile coalition governments are common The Irish Times noted, to be sure, the potential political fallout. Headed “Australian government in turmoil after sex scandal”, the report lead with, “Australia’s government was engulfed by bitter political infighting on Friday over the handling of a sex scandal involving the deputy prime minister, which experts warned could threaten the future of the ruling coalition”.

A screenshot of the Irish Times article on the Barnaby Joyce scandal

The Irish Times‘ article went beyond the bare facts to explore the potential political turmoil.

De Telegraaf in the Netherlands also focused on the political crisis with “Seksschandaal verscheurt Australische coalitie” (Sex scandal tears Australian coalition). So did Turkey’s Sputnik News, Slovakia’s Aktuality and Vietnam’s VN Express.

The New Zealand Herald showed no sympathy, despite Mr Joyce having been a fellow citizen for 40 years. The newsroom ramped up the crisis angle with Labor’s call for either Mr Turnbull or Mr Joyce to resign. In a searing opinion piece titled “Barnaby Joyce had his leg over – now his career should be over too”, Kate Hawkesby pilloried the ex-Kiwi for his abuse of power: “A man who used his powerful position to conduct secret and scurrilous actions, resulting in the take down of all of these women. His kids have had to, in just a handful of months, cope with a separation, a new relationship, a new half-sibling on the way, and their Dad moving out of the family home. All the while trying to conduct their regular lives, under a glaring spotlight.”

The New York Times was also more concerned about the power angle than the sex: “Politician’s Affair Puts Spotlight on Australia’s Crony Culture”.

Other prominent reports appeared in Egypt’s Dostor, Canada’s National Post, the Hindi Prabhat Khabar (Morning News), the Czech Novinky, the Arabic Arabi21, China’s Xinhuanet News and Morning Post, Greece’s EPT, Thailand’s Daily News and virtually all the newspapers in Indonesia.

Australia is world famous again.

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