Barnaby Joyce lodges complaint about exposing his relationship with Vick Campion

May 28, 2018 |

The Australian reports that both Barnaby Joyce and Vikki Campion have lodged a complaint with the Australian Press Council against the Daily Telegraph for breaching their privacy.

At the time the story broke I thought that Campion had a fairly good chance of bringing a privacy action, even an injunction, against the Daily Telegraph relying on the equitable claim of misuse of private information.  The problem was the story ran, and ran and ran and with each lap of the oval the chances of bringing a successful claim diminishes.   Joyce’s conduct in giving interviews, then calling for privacy, then calling for privacy while giving interviews makes any claim in equity difficult.

It helps little that the media apply little analysis to the privacy issues involved in this situation.  Caroline Overington’s piece, Barnaby Joyce has made his son Sebastian public property, is breathtakingly foolish in the privacy rights of the Joyce-Campion’s child.  The article seems to be a half baked attempt at being ever so witty.  But there is a real dark side to it, one that reveals the breathtaking ignorance that many in the media have about basic privacy principles. Such as the statement:

The Joyce affair led to a new Ministerial Code of Conduct, a new rule, that prevents fraternisation between ministers and their staff.

It’s a political story, and he’s going to sell it.

It’s an ugly situation, unimaginable even a generation ago. And the ramifications for Sebastian are serious: this gives the media license to continue to report on the Joyce marriage, its breakdown, the new relationship, forevermore.

Like it or not, this child’s story is now public property. It’s been put up for sale, for the public’s consumption.

(emphasis added)

The child’s story, as in about the child rather than Joyce/Campion, is not public property.  It is a useful assertion for the media, but matters relating to the child are private, not political and certainly not public.

A complaint to the Press Council is of some moment to some media insiders.  It has no power to make orders compelling a member to do anything.  As it says:

The Council has no power to order compensation, fines or other financial sanctions. Where a complaint is upheld, the adjudication may also include a reprimand or censure, and may explicitly call for (but not require) apologies, retractions, corrections or other specified remedial action by the publisher. The Council may also call for specific measures to prevent recurrence of the type of breach in question.

For those who feel their privacy has been invaded and want real and substantial action the Press Council is of little use.  Unfortunately the regulatory sphere in Australia is replete with complex processes with almost completely ineffective solutions.

The article provides:

Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce and his partner Vikki Campion have lodged a complaint with The Australian Press Council against The Daily Telegraph for breaching their privacy when it ­exposed their relationship.

Details of the complaint emerged as the couple were condemned for accepting $150,000 for a television appearance with their infant son Sebastian on the Seven Network, revealed exclusively by The Weekend Australian.

The Daily Telegraph’s political editor Sharri Markson broke the story Ms Campion was pregnant with the former Nationals leader in February. Ms Campion, who used to work for the newspaper, filed a complaint with the APC in March on the grounds the couple’s privacy was breached by the reports, The Daily Telegraph reports today.

The newspaper said that it will vigorously defend the complaint in the Press Council.

There is dismay among some of Mr Joyce’s former colleagues over his deal with Seven. Health Minister Greg Hunt yesterday said he was “100 per cent certain” no cabinet minister would participate in a paid media interview.

A senior Nationals MP yesterday said the former deputy prime minister’s life was “turning into a soap opera”. And a moderate ­Liberal MP labelled Mr Joyce’s decision to do the interview on the Seven Network’s Sunday Night as “lost-the-plot stuff”.

“It is like saying ‘This fire is getting out of control so I am going to put it out with kerosene’,” the Liberal MP said. “The concern is he is destabilising; there is a view that he is doing damage to us.”

Mr Hunt was reluctant to criticise Mr Joyce for agreeing to the paid interview but stressed no cabinet member of the government would consider being paid for a media appearance. “I am ­absolutely certain, 100 per cent certain, that it’s not a position anyone in the cabinet would take and, as for their particular family, I don’t think it’d be appropriate of me to comment on those circumstances,” he said.

However, Nationals senator John “Wacka” Williams defended Mr Joyce. Senator Williams said he would not pass judgement on the former Nationals leader for accepting the money for the interview. “I judge Barnaby on the job he does and his politics as the member for New England, what he does with his private life, of him and Vikki and his son Sebastian, that is up to him to decide it is not for me to judge I’m sorry,” Senator Williams told ABC radio.

“It is going to be very public but it is not for me to judge, if he decides to do that that is his business, none of my business and I’m not going to make a judgment one way or the other whether it is right or wrong, that is his decision.”

Senator Williams said he would probably not accept money for an interview while a member of the federal parliament. “Why would anyone want to pay me for an interview? But no I probably wouldn’t,” he said.

In written comments to The Australian ahead of his paid interview, Mr Joyce said the birth of his son, Sebastian, had made him more reflective about the challenges Australia faced, outlining his concerns that his fifth child had been born in one of the most “tumultuous periods that anyone can experience”.

Mr Joyce said the nation better “toughen up, princess” and be pragmatic rather than emotional to tackle the challenges of a changing world where China is trying to dominate geopolitics.

He identified the debate about coal-fired power stations and live sheep exports as examples of powerful people making decisions with hearts rather than heads.

“The baby is born in what must be one of the most tumultuous ­periods that anyone could experience,” he said. “I now have some new spare time on the backbench considering a more distant view of Canberra and a closer view of my constituency. Maybe having a new child has renewed my concerns as to what lies in his future. He will be posed with a question on whether the pragmatic side of our nature tempered the emotive.

“If we want a future in a China-dominated western Pacific then we better toughen up, princess. Toughen up if you want your kids to have the hope for the future that you had. It will be a different world where the superpower may not be a democracy and may not feel the urge to follow the rule book others did.”

He said allowing AGL to close the Liddell coal-fired power station in the Hunter Valley was foolish as cheap power was the “cornerstone” of Australian industry. He said Labor’s decision to phase out live sheep exports because of incidents of animal cruelty was akin to “shutting highways because of a horrific car crash”.




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