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Everyone Has The Right To A Private Life Unless It’s In Public…

There are often competing rights in any civilised society. Clive Palmer’s right to go skinny-dipping at a public beach needs to be balanced by other people’s right not to be put off sex for the foreseeable future.

And so, while it’s perfectly reasonable to argue that people have the right to keep their private life to themselves, this sometimes can run the risk of keeping some things out of the public eye that should be examined. In order to explain this further, I’m going to talk about someone’s sex life and then I’m going to deliberately leave sex out altogether.

First up, let’s use the example of Fred. If we imagine that Fred can only become sexually aroused when he’s in private and watching highlights of John Howard’s speeches, then, while we have a clear picture of someone who has what most people would regard as a serious issue, Fred’s private life is something that doesn’t impact on others, unless he chooses to share it with them, thereby not only violating their rights but giving them a case under the UN prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments. If Fred keeps it to himself, then it would be totally wrong for me to secretly film him just so I could sabotage him at work, where he’s likely to be promoted because he’s so much better at his job than me. Yes, many of us disapprove of Fred’s private life, some of us are appalled by it and will never see Fred in the same light again, but to give Fred his due, he never wanted it to be made public and it didn’t interfere with his capacity to do his job, so he should be allowed to continue and I should be admonished for trying to use someone’s private life for my greedy, personal reasons.

Now let’s remove sex from the equation altogether which I’m sure you’re all happy to do after my previous paragraphs. Let’s imagine that several companies have put in a tender for a large contract at my place of work and I’m the person who gets to evaluate them for my boss. I look them all over and say – to everyone’s surprise – that a small company just starting out should get the job. After the contracts are all signed, someone asks why I didn’t disclose that the directors of said company happen to be my brother-in-law, an old school friend who owes me money and a woman who was bridesmaid at my wedding. “Yes,” I say, “that’s true, but I didn’t think that my private life was relevant.”

So when we hear that various MPs are bonking their staff…

Whoops, sorry. I forgot that the PM interrupted a woman being asked about whether the culture for women had improved to object to the term. Apparently, the words trivialise what is a very serious thing and so we now have a “bonking ban” ban.

Anyway, when we hear that various MPs are bonking their staff and someone suggests that it’s all right because they’re consenting adults, I can’t help but wonder why some of the people who argue this have been so slow to embrace other activities that consenting adults would like to try. Gay people marrying each other, for example.

The thing is that when there’s a power imbalance there’s an inherent problem. However, that’s not the only thing that worries me. Just as we had the brouhaha with Gladys Berejiklian the other week, if there’s no problem, why is it being kept secret?

Yeah, yeah, I know. I’m a private person and I don’t like my private life splashed all over the media… Unless I’m paid $150,000 for the interview like Barnaby Joyce.

Still, there’s something quite strange about the idea that something can be an open secret in Canberra but making it an open secret in the rest of Australia is intruding on that person’s private life… Actually, I’m starting to worry about the oxymoronic nature of the words “open secret”.

I guess what I’m saying is that were I doing something that nobody had a problem with, such as having a drink with a friend, then nobody would be particularly interested and exposing it is in nobody’s interest. However, if that friend happens to be a politician which I’m about to interview about a scandal in their office, it’s surely relevant that we frequently catch up and we’ve been having regular dinners together and so when my first question is: “How do you respond to this ridiculous nonsense that you’re imperfect in any way when you’re clearly so awesome at your job?”, people do have an inkling that my bias my the result of something more than the merits of the story.

And I guess I’m also saying that it’s inevitable that – from time to time – consenting adults working together may form attractions which they act upon. At such a time I think there’s only two ethical things to do: 1. Stop working together 2. Declare it openly so that it’s not a “private matter” and everyone can judge your actions through the understanding that the two of you are more than work colleagues. If you pick the third option of pretending it’s not really there, you can expect that, should it become public, then it’s hard to argue that you had nothing to hide because, if that’s so, why were you hiding it?


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  1. Keitha Granville

    More to the point in the latest case, they were married to other people !!!

    Nobody cares if co-workers get extra friendly with each other BUT when one party is the boss and the other is their junior it is NEVER acceptable.

    Let’s be frank, MPs should be setting the best examples in every sphere of their lives, rather they seem to excel at the worst.

  2. Ken

    Now we know why The Christian Port was too busy to find the
    time to do anything about setting up an anti-corruption body.

  3. Terence Mills

    I’m confused, Tudge was having an affair with a young woman in his office described as a ‘senior media adviser’ the same job description given to Vikki Campion : is that a pseudonym in political circles ?

    Wanted : senior media adviser wink wink nudge nudge !

    Then, like Vikki she was moved sideways to the office of another minister but still as a senior media adviser but now with Mick Cash.

    I know that Barrie Cassidy used to be a senior media adviser as did Chris Kenny.

    Perhaps to avoid these sexual temptations we need to go back to men as media advisers : Barrie Cassidy in a short skirt with a bit of Lippy …………………anybody remember Dick Emery ?

  4. leefe

    @ Terrence Mills

    Or the pollies (regardless of gender/sexuality) could accept that it isn’t appropriate to have intimate relationships with those with whom they work, and keep it in their pants. Or is that asking too much? I’d have thought it was the bare minimum for responsible adulting.

  5. TuffGuy

    You forgot to mention the other part of the equation that is kept secret along with the adulterous sex lives of our MPs – the other half of the sexual liaison, the women. The fact that these women are being discriminated against, demoted, sacked, lives destroyed, etc does in fact validate the publication of their after hours activities. One could argue this is the prime reason for secrets being revealed. Notwithstanding the fact that the perpetrators of said sexual liaisons campaign strongly on family values and such whilst carrying on like a bunch of wombats (eats, roots, shoots and leaves) the treatment of the women is not acceptable in any workplace. These are people in positions of power who are abusing that power with their subordinates. As politicians they are expected by all to be held to a higher standard than the rest of us. They are politicians who supposedly manage the country and the economy, they represent our country on the international stage, they are privvy to sensitive and secret information on many subjects and it is obvious that this type of behaviour (just one of many) leaves them very open to compromise.
    In today’s workplace you have no right to privacy if this is what you are doing in private.

  6. Jack Cade

    Surely there is another way of looking at this. Power is attractive, and I have no doubt that people use the opportunities provided by a
    political ‘casting couch’, or, in some cases, a ‘casting desk’.
    Ambition finds its own route (an apposite homophone). Certainly the females involved in these trysts have attracted negative comments, and unfairly so, but both men were powerful, married ministers. The girls could have been under no illusions as to the likely endgame.
    Clever, educated people know that, as the saying goes – ‘an erect penis has no conscience’ or brains, as it happens. Neither girl has suggested that she found the amorous attentions of married, bible-bashing RW ministers offensive, let alone unwelcome.
    Its not only women, of course. Was not Peter Slipper allegedly over-friendly with a male staffer, who shared midnight coffees with another minister and went on to ‘great things’?
    But ‘dalliancers’ should note that ‘hell hath no fury like a —– scorned’. Fill in the blank yourself – you could even insert ‘Prime Minister’ for that matter…

  7. leefe

    @ Jack Cade:

    The staffers were not married. They had not made promises to another person to be faithful. They were not in the public eye. They were not making public statements about the “sanctity” of (cis-het) marriage and (cis-het nuclear) families as part of their professional lives.

    And, again, remember the power imbalance. Remember who is the position with the most responsibility, with seniority, with wealth, with the ability to make or break a career.
    We expect adults to act like adults around minors, no matter how “provocative” the behaviour of those minors might seem to that adult. The same standards should apply in the workplace.
    Is it really that hard to say “no”? Is it really that hard to not take advantage of your power? Is it really that hard to accept that intimate relationships in such situations are fraught with all sorts of moral and ethical complications and thus best avoided? Is it really that hard to not be a self-centred, greedy, corrupt douchenozzle?

  8. Jack Cade


    We are talking about adults here. Who was taking advantage of whom? I don’t know, but a staffer who has the chance to shag a minister and thinks it might be a good career move is not going to be afraid of being victimised by that minister, who is married and has a great deal to lose. In an ordinary parliament.
    It is uncommon for a man to say ‘no’, but very common for a woman to do so. I am not defending either party.. They each knew what they were doing. The Ministers, in an ethical party, would have had a lot to lose, the woman little to lose but a chance to gain something by way of potential favours.
    We are a long way from Mick Young getting sacked over a stuffed toy. We now have a government of un-convicted criminals, and presumably their staff are well aware of their weaknesses and relative invulnerability, and are prepared to take advantage of it. It is the Liberal Party we are talking about , after all. a moral and ethical black hole. I have little doubt that their staff are as unprincipled as their employers. The girls were not naifs.

  9. wam

    There are only a few of free bonking animals like us, bonobos being experts.
    For conservative bonkers, like the rabbott, to leave their catholic seed in a catholic was risky, as joyce discovered, but in protestant boxes was a brag worthy coup at uni.(remember rabbott could have been the father).
    The way ruston took scummos insult showed how powerless are the lnp women. Scummo had no qualms about interfering because his religion orders women to defer to men.
    With so many men and women thinking below the waist perhaps locked jockstraps and burqas are the solution?

  10. leefe

    Jack Cade

    “The Ministers, in an ethical party, would have had a lot to lose, the woman little to lose … ”

    First, “an ethical party” is an irrelevant comment in this context because, as we all well know, there is little ethical behaviour – particularly around workplace sexual misbehaviour – from any of our parties, and least of all from the LNP.

    As for the minister (presumably a man, given your latter use of “woman”) having a lot to lose and the woman little: as has been pointed out here and many other places, it is almost inevitably the more vulnerable member of such incidents/liaisons that loses their job, not the senior, and in most cases (and I do not refer only to politics) that is the woman. Despite a little headway being made by #MeTo and similar movements, very very few men are actually held to account in such situations, and even more rarely is that “punishment” long-lasting.

    You seem to have a total disconnect from reality on this subject. Women have been losing jobs and careers as long as they have been working, due to sexual harrassment, assault and abuse, while it is rare for the perpetrators to be held to account. Look at Trump, look at Barnaby Joyce, look at Porter and Tudge, look at how many accusations and how long it took for Cosby and Weinstein to be investigated, charged and convicted.

  11. Jack Cade


    Nowhere in this narrative is there any suggestion that the women involved – including Joyce’s case – were anything less than willing participants. I was merely trying to point out that the usual male pressure in such cases was not applicable here and the women involved were not pressganged, even of the press ganged on them later.
    As the father of three daughters I would not ever defend the ‘droit de seigneur’ that your closing paragraph suggests was applicable here. None of the women were subjected to ‘sexual harassment, assault and abuse’. They all, in my jaundiced view, saw the chance of a leg over providing a leg up.
    In Barney Rubble’s case it was QED.
    The fact that society has no pejoratives for ‘loose-moraled males’ is a separate matter entirely. The truth is that the hypocritical’ god-botherers’ that dominate our government saw no reason to take any action, and that is the problem. The two ministers are high on the list of ‘sanctity of marriage’ advocates, and the PM is head of the cult or cults. (How tempting it is to make a slip between n and l on the keyboard. – and each of the words would be apposite.)
    I have no doubt that the entire parliament provides ample opportunity for liaisons, But one large section of one party in particular makes much of its virtuous beliefs, merely undermining what they say is the core of their lifestyle.

  12. !

    Things aren’t always as they seem. Two students at a school camp caught In flagrante delicto were sent home and subsequently expelled. Parents of male accepted his fate without so much of a murmur. No so the mother of the girl. On appeal, she pointed out that the sexual act was (a) consensual; (b) both were of legal age; and (c) while each student was provided with a detailed set of camp rules nowhere was f@cking mentioned let alone forbidden.

    Appeal was upheld.

  13. Michael Taylor

    My memory has almost completely failed me. I’m not sure if it was a Liberal, National of Labor politician, and I’ve forgotten which state he represented. Let’s go with a Liberal from Tasmania. Anyway, in a candid interview his wife admitted that they once bonked on his office desk.

    Maybe his girlfriend wasn’t available that day.

  14. Michael Taylor

    Thank you, !.

    Yes, John Brown. That’s him.

    Definitely not a Tasmanian Liberal. But at least I got the bonking and the desk right. 😀

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