Barnaby Joyce’s ‘family values’ failings are fair game

Maybe I’m just a jealous feminist (not to mention lesbian). Perhaps I have a bitter need to deny happiness to a couple that have simply found love through an office romance and pregnancy.

No, I’m not jealous, I’m angry. I could care less about the moral virtue of Barnaby Joyce’s sex life. The less thought about it the better. What gets me is the staggering level of hypocrisy revealed by this whole episode.

Joyce is, and always has been, a social conservative. But his conservatism isn’t limited to “private” views about “private” matters. Conservatives make a point of demanding that their views on personal relationships are state enforced.

They also claim unlimited free speech to spout their repulsive views.

Joyce and his ilk are especially concerned to legislate and enforce rules that define and shape sexual behaviour. Conservative ideological positions are inseparable from Joyce’s political decision making, no matter how “private” the issue.

Looking at the evidence, the member for New England has been making and defending decisions based on his own moral perspective since he entered the political arena. Those decisions impact the lives of young women, LGBTI people, Indigenous, refugee and migrant communities.

For example, in 2006, Joyce argued against putting the drug Gardasil on the vaccination schedule. Gardasil is 100 percent effective in protecting women from the human papillomavirus, which causes 70 percent of cervical cancers.

This was not because it is expensive; it was because Joyce was “personally very circumspect” about putting something “out there” that “gives my 12-year-old daughter a licence to be promiscuous”. It is notable that his four daughters feature in much of his public moralism about policy issues.

When activists put marriage equality on the agenda, Joyce’s opposition to it wasn’t a surprise. His former political advisor in Queensland was Lyle Shelton, then the director of the Australian Christian Lobby and now the latest recruit to Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives.

Again, his daughters were props for his moralistic political “argument”. This time he expressed concern that allowing same sex couples to marry may threaten his daughter’s hopes of finding their own heterosexual marital bliss.

Joyce argued for homophobic and transphobic discrimination based on defending “traditional marriage”. I agree with Rodney Croome on this one. Croome wrote that, through his actions, Joyce has “exposed what ‘traditional marriage’ really means for people like him. It is not a set of standards for heterosexual couples to live up to. It is a euphemism for prejudice against LGBTI people”.

With the final vote, Joyce was one of the few cowards who did not even bother showing up in Parliament.

While Joyce and his supporters continue to plead with the media to “keep private matters private” to protect the feelings of the parties involved, our lives as LGBTI people were last year subjected to a protracted and deliberately prolonged public debate over a simple matter of equal rights.

With marriage equality now a reality, social conservatives such as Joyce will continue to limit support for LGBTI people in schools, ignore institutionalised sexism and defend the right of religious institutions to discriminate on homophobic and transphobic grounds.

Joyce makes judgements about us – and uses the power of the parliament to enforce his judgements. So yes, his “family values” failings are fair game.