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Barnaby Joyce, religious freedom and moral outrage

The implosion of Nationals Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce’s political career, amid the growing scandal over his adulterous relationship with a female staffer comes at a fortuitous time. The Religious Freedom Review, an inquiry set up to examine whether Australian law adequately protects the human right to freedom of religion, has just closed to submissions.

The impetus for the inquiry was the 2017 Marriage Equality Plebiscite, during which opponents of marriage equality argued they should be able to legally discriminate against people engaging in what they deemed morally repugnant behaviour, on the basis of their religious beliefs. And so it is with some irony that the exposure of Joyce’s morally questionable actions comes now.

The mandate for the Religious Freedom Review is to “consider the intersections between the enjoyment of the freedom of religion and other human rights”. Clearly the aim of the inquiry is to placate those of faith who feel their religious beliefs are threatened by allowing LGBTI Australians the legal right to marry.

The context for the establishment of the inquiry has resulted in commentators generally analysing the intersection of the human right of freedom of religion with the human rights afforded (or which should be afforded) to LGBTI Australians. However, the inquiry provides the perfect opportunity to examine how granting greater religious freedom may look, when applied not to the LGBTI community, but to a “gregarious bull of a man often seen in a trademark Akubra bush hat”.

Joyce, a Christian and staunch defender of traditional marriage and family values, opposed marriage equality and abstained from the vote on legislation. Yet his behind-closed-doors activities, demonstrate an entirely different set of values to those he publicly proclaims.

Religions invariably impose strict moral rules on those practicing the faith, which impact not only on their public life, but also their personal life. For example, in Christianity, divorce, cohabitation and fornication are considered immoral, with children born out of wedlock pitied and frowned upon.

But of most relevance, the Christian Bible, in Leviticus 20:10, prohibits adultery, stating that “If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife—with the wife of his neighbour—both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death.”

Imagine therefore, what Joyce’s current situation would look like if the human right to freedom of religion took precedence over other human rights.

The generally accepted list of human rights is found within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (“UDHR”) which was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948.

Fortunately for Joyce at this current time, he is protected from a vicious stoning for betraying his marriage vows. Article 3 of the UDHR says: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” He is also allowed to dissolve his marriage if he so wishes without unfavourable treatment (Article 16: “Men and women of full age….are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution”), and he has a right to privacy and protection from attacks on his reputation (Article 12: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”)

He is also generally protected from discrimination, whether it be in education (Article 26), employment (Article 23), participating in political life (Article 21) or other economic, social and cultural activities (Article 22).

The UDHR defines all human rights as equal, and all people as equally deserving of human rights. The UDHR provides a balance between competing rights, where rights may only be exercised to the extent that doing so does not cause harm to others in the community.

This is generally covered in Article 7: “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.” And, according to Article 29, “In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.

In Australia, a secular, Western democracy, religious exemptions to anti-discrimination and other laws do already exist in some jurisdictions. But if, as a result of the current review, religious freedom is afforded a higher priority over other human rights, where would this leave Barnaby Joyce?

Will those who are morally outraged by Joyce’s adultery, cohabitation and fornication be demanding he be put to death?

Should Joyce be sacked from his job solely on the basis of his chosen (extramarital) partner?

If Joyce divorces his wife, could he be refused rent or accommodation, or a room in a hotel?

If Joyce chooses to remarry, could a civil celebrant refuse to officiate over his wedding ceremony on the basis of his moral depravity?

Will the nation debate whether Barnaby’s fifth child, born out of an immoral union, be worse off than his children born and raised in wedlock?

Fortunately for Joyce, the nation has not yet been summoned to vote on whether he is entitled to the right to privacy. Australians have not been invited to participate in a non-binding, non-compulsory postal survey to determine whether he should still be treated equally before the law as an adulterer. And fortunately for Joyce, he cannot be refused a room in a hotel to share with his pregnant partner, and he cannot be fired simply on the basis of his fornication.

Barnaby Joyce’s political career may be nearing its end, but he lives another day. Joyce has avoided a stoning for now, thanks to the intersection of the enjoyment of freedom of religion and other human rights in Australia. If he lived in a country where religious beliefs take precedence, he may well be dead.





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  1. OldWomBat

    Regardless of one’s view of Joyce’s affair and relationship to his “non-partner” (Turnbull’s cop-out) the question remains: was there undue influence and improper process in the various appointments that Joyce’s non-partner received in her roundabout through the lnp offices? Much to Abbott’s apparent discomfort at the thought of an ICAC, such an institution could properly and fully address such issues without obfuscation evident in parliament this week, and indeed apply itself to issues across all political parties.

  2. Norma Gordon

    Barnaby Joyce is a hypocrite! He should have kept his pants zipped! He should not keep his job because if he’s done this to his family, what is he capable of doing things for the people he represents? He has no moral values! He should go!

  3. CocoNero

    Yep, Barnaby really should have engaged the brain before placing his Pistol into Boo

  4. Shutterbug

    Same Sex Marriage was argued against, ridiculed and proselytised by the religious nutters of the Right of which BeetROOT was a major component. It was debated and then voted and passed by the Australian people.

    The World is still turning, water is still wet, corruption is still rife in our government and the environment is still being raped by human activity and public office decency by Barnaby.

    Hypocrisy runs deep in Barneyland.

    Just saying.

  5. bobrafto

    Don’t think anyone is getting steamed up over the beetrooter’s sex life but a lot of peeps are getting steamed up over the rorts and corruption which is the issue.

  6. Eva

    The Beetrooters sex life isn’t of interest to the nation because he’s straight. If he was gay, he’d be ripped to shreds by the conservative media. The Government is actually paying for an expert inquiry to placate homophobes who want to be able to legally discriminate against gay people because of their moral outrage. But as you say, there is no moral outrage over Barnaby’s sex life …

  7. Roswell

    Interesting article, Eva. I like the way you think.

  8. Matters Not


    Beetrooters sex life isn’t of interest to the nation

    Not sure about that. Some key constituencies most certainly are. Nevertheless – that he doesn’t use condoms nor seek an abortion are two redeeming features. Presumably he still confesses on a regular basis, takes communion on Sundays and prays morning and night and frequently during the day. He knows how to save his soul.

  9. diannaart

    Terrific writing, Eva.

    Places focus on just how human rights and “freedom” of religion part ways.

    Barnie should get down on his knees and give thanks the Universal Declaration of Human Rights exists.

  10. Kaye Lee

    When conservatives within the Coalition failed in their bid to increase religious protections in the same-sex marriage bill, Nationals MP Andrew Broad said “this is where a lack of leadership from the Coalition, the executive of the Coalition and the Prime Minister, has let down many Australians.”

    Asked how he felt about Mr Turnbull’s leadership going forward, he replied: “Well, that’s a decision for the Liberal Party, I’m a National Party. But I’m making the point, it’s a clear failure of leadership ”

    George Christensen wrote “I concur with my Nationals colleague Andrew Broad. A true leader would have sought to capture the will of the people and protect freedoms, not this hands-off approach.”

    In November, Christensen told Andrew Bolt, Peta Credlin and Cory Bernardi he was prepared to quit the government if Malcolm Turnbull was still prime minister by the time parliament rose for Christmas.

    Phil Coorey has written a great piece…

    “Before this extraordinary development, some Nationals MPs were already uttering foul oaths, arguing Turnbull and the rest of the Liberal Party had no business telling the Nationals who should be their leader.

    They warned the more the Liberals told them what to do, the more they would dig in behind Barnaby.

    The hypocrisy and preciousness behind such an attitude is stark. The Nationals have never hesitated in giving the Liberals free advice over their leader, especially when it has concerned Turnbull.

    In 2009, they bragged openly about driving the revolt against Turnbull and his support for a price on carbon that caused Turnbull to be dumped for Tony Abbott.

    “The mouse that roared,” a beaming Ron Boswell boasted in the aftermath.”

  11. Kaye Lee


    Barnaby can no longer take communion

    “Who should not receive Communion. Anyone in the state of serious sin or not in full communion with Christ and his Church. If one publicly and obstinately persists in grave sin (living in adultery, promoting abortion, et al) Canon Law requires that person not approach for Communion until he/she is reconciled to God in his heart and through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This includes those who are living in “irregular” marriages not considered valid by the Church.”

  12. Matters Not

    KL sometimes church authorities are selective as to which parts of religious law they enforce.

    Here’s an example drawn from Leviticus. Hope he doesn’t like seafood. And you are not into oysters and the like.

    I am beyond redemption because of my likes as well.

  13. Suda

    I wonder why we think people having affairs and being grubby human beings is ok, and a personal matter?

    You know you’re being a dog when you cheat and lie to people for your own gratification of feeling in love, or whatever teenage sensation. So why shouldn’t I be allowed to call them out? What do you think Barnaby’s poor wife must think of her husband, and all his mates and work colleagues pretending to be nice to her face, whilst knowing exactly what was happening?

    These two love rats, have to pay the price for their selfish and heartless behavior by losing everything they risked losing when they first started their grubby affair.

  14. paul walter

    Leviticus, eh….whwooahhh!

    I get the impression that Joyce’s problems extend from him being too “stoned” most of the time to work through even the most basic of situations emergent.

    The one thing he has got right is his observation concerning thieving Turnbull’s character..kettle/pot.

  15. Zathras

    Somehow I don’t think the idea of not being entitled to nibble on some cannibal crackers in Church would matter to someone who makes a living from lying and satisfying his own ego while also enjoying the demands of the flesh.
    He could always seek advice from a fallen priest or two if he wants to reconcile his behaviour with official doctrine.

    Hypocrisy takes many forms and has already mastered several of them.

  16. kerri

    Eva I love the way you cut straight to the chase. Nailed it again. Hypocrisy thy name is LNP.

  17. pierre wilkinson

    after royally shafting the water portfolio, having no interest in his current portfolio and enjoying giving it to everyday Australians, I guess Baarnaby is somewhat nonplussed by the kerfuffle over such a minor indiscretion… I am sure he is culpable of lots more, in fact even capable of lots more and probably cannot wait until he can register this “partner” so he can legally get paid to continue on his merry way… shame on the MSM, shame on the Nats, shame on Baaarnaby and shame on us for not demanding some open and honest answers from this collective self indulgence

  18. diannaart

    Indeed, a “garnish” of clarity.

    Gay Alcorn has pointed to the very real mistakes made by Turnbull and how he has managed to generally insult everyone’s intelligence – not the least ole Barnaby’s (yup there’s some intelligence in there somewhere – certainly enough for outrage, in rather 1950’s male style).

    That 1950’s style where men must protect their honour – in this case “their women”. A shame these manly men never learned that women aren’t as in need of protection (sabre-tooth tigers having become extinct eons ago), but to place the onus of responsibility for male behaviour onto themselves and their male peers.

    Loved this aside from Ms Alcorn:

    (As an aside, we really are obsessed with sex, aren’t we? In workplaces, I have seen many men taking young men who remind them of themselves under their wing, mentor them, play golf with them, go drinking with them, give them all kinds of opportunities not available to others and cause considerable resentment among the rest of the staff. But that’s fine. Sex, however, even a single mutually enjoyable romp? Outrageous!)

    Men have been helping other men up the greasy pole of ambition for centuries, why not assist other men into behaving a little less stupid and a lot more respectful towards others?; women, children and LGBTI people in particular.

    Use those patriarchal tendencies for those who really need it – other men.

  19. paul walter

    diannaart, you were watching Greg Sheridan on last night’s Drum?

    You must have been.

    Of course I disagree with you if you are saying selfishness is exclusivley a male vice, but…

    On the main issue, Turnbull has made an error of the same magnitude as Joyce, because he has revealed he is a hypocrite when it comes to callousness, as Joyce has been to his wife and daughters

    Centrelink, Aborigines, government cuts to social infrastructure like women;s shelters) and so many other meanesses come to mind.In short, the error compounded by his odd sex ban, occurs BECAUSE HE CAN’T SACK JOYCE- it was an unloaded gun that could not end the thing quickly and instead people reflect on his IMPOTENCE.

    Emma Alberici for exposing the tax cuts for the rich nonsenses defended by the Murdoch press exposes Turnbull’s own moral turpitude both as to the ABC/censorship/downdumbing, paired with the extent of his lying over tax cuts for the rich in the service of his master, Murdoch.

  20. Karen

    How long is Murdochs tether? The Barnaby dug his heels in and the Malcolm did a face plant. Hard to believe that’s part of the original ‘Change of Minister’ joke script. Still, who knows?

  21. diannaart


    I did not watch Greg Sheridan last night, should I?

    Apologies, I forgot to include my acknowledgement to all men that: The male behaviours I am about to describe does not apply to all men and, yes, women are just as back-bitingly selfish too. Can’t understand why I keep forgetting that.

    I do hope that suggesting the overwhelming majority of really, really, good men could take on the not so good men to treat others with respect, is acceptable to you – or is that too femi-nazi for you?

    Please let me know, I realise I am not supposed to upset any men at all ever and appreciate the help. Now, Paul I am not going to suggest that your claim alcohol is an aphrodisiac for women is…. ooops, I’d better stop now. Can’t go upsetting the men now can I?


  22. paul walter

    No, no- forget that.

    Watch the Drum and listen to Sheridan on gentlemen and watch Caro “go” him, you will savour it .

    Ps, Alcohol IS an aphrodisiac operating on woman’s hormones as they drink as it does…saw it on a BBC doco a year or two ago and it is also easily Googled. Sorry.

    Ps ps, anyway, what about the REST of my comment?

  23. Kronomex

    As we all know Turnbull is desperate to remain puppet…I meant leader and PM (Puppet Managed) that this has all come from him –

    He’s already sold off 3/4’s of his soul to be Mister Number One and now the final 1/4 is about to sold off to make him Mister Number Two (the number 2 that requires a visit to the little house on the prairie that is).

  24. diannaart

    You believe everything you see on TV? – the entire women and alcohol thing? You are making the claim, you provide the evidence. You might want to read up on the alcoholic effect on human inhibitions – just a thought.

    As for the rest of your comment, I had no problems, most of the time I see a very intelligent astute person, besides no one seems to pay much attention to all of my comments either 🙁

    As for Sheridan, well if he is being lambasted by Caro, maybe I will check it out.

  25. Phil

    Delicious reasoning.

    Joyce is, of course, a CHRINO i.e. CHristian In Name Only – and most of his colleagues are CHRINO

  26. johno

    I looked up the definition of LNP in the dictionary and wasn’t surprised by the answer. ‘A group of hypocritical backstabbing individuals’

  27. Nearly Normal Frederick

    As a “catholic” It will be interesting and very amusing to see what happens to Barney Rubble’s legal marital status.
    Whether or not he will be granted a divorce and the “moral” gymnastics involved in the process by the “catholic” men who adjudicate the process.
    Whether as a “catholic” he will then be permitted to marry again in a “catholic” church.
    There are of course precedents for this game of moral contortions, especially in the case of Newt Gingrich who new wife is now the USA ambassador to the cess-pool known as the Vatican

  28. Zathras

    Sheridan is primarily an Abbott apologist and promoter in the same way that Gerard Henderson still worships the memory of John Howard.
    You already know what he intends to say but it’s mildly interesting to see how he’s going to say it each time.

    Most people base their opinion on the facts but pundits like him will adjust the facts to fit their opinion.
    Andrew Bolt got caught out when somebody finally called him out on one of his distortions.

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