opinion

The profoundly uncomfortable reaction to the sleazy Barnaby Joyce photo.

It’s the photo the nation is talking about.

Our Deputy Prime Minister craning his neck, apparently eyeing off his then-media adviser as she unwittingly twirls her hair.

I mean, how could you not talk about it?

Whether or not you think this photo is indeed in the public interest, and deserved to be splashed on the front pages of News Corp’s biggest papers this morning (including the Herald Sun, Daily Telegraph and Courier Mail), it has taken over the conversation currently engulfing Australian politics – exactly as was intended.

With calls growing for Barnaby Joyce, 50, to resign over his affair with his Vikki Campion, 33, this photo is doing his case no favours.

Joyce has vehemently denied he breached ministerial standards by becoming involved with Campion while she was his media adviser – which contradicts claims from his now estranged wife and mother of his four children.

Barnaby and Natalie Joyce separated in December. Image via Getty.
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Campion, who is now pregnant, started working for Joyce in May 2016 and stayed for about a year before being moved to the offices of Matt Canavan and later, Damian Drum.

And this photograph was captured smack bang in the middle of her stint under Joyce, in November 2016.

No doubt news editors have been gathering pictures of Campion and Joyce ever since rumours first began circulating in the halls of Parliament many months ago, building up their artillery knowing one day, the imagery would provide many a 'gotcha' moment.

The look from the Deputy PM seemingly ogling at Campion's figure is enough to make anyone squirm.

It’s sleazy, plain and simple.

But almost as soon as the photo was published, instead of the focus being on Joyce's perving, it was was steered towards Campion. Because, you see, she had committed a terrible crime. She wore a short skirt.

The top, most-liked comment on Mamamia's Facebook page about this photo was:

"He's gross. But I also query how it's ok for a media adviser earning $100k plus to be dressed like that at an official function?"

This was closely followed by comments like:

"While I'm well aware that professional women can be as sexy as they like, I can't help but feel she's not very professionally dressed for parliament. She looks like a Brazilian soccer fan."

"I’m more concerned about her lack of suitable attire when attending this summit I mean come on she looks like she is about to hit a night club. We all know she was well and truly being paid enough to purchase some appropriate clothing."

And these, I should stress, are the relatively tame comments.

There are far more vulgar remarks involving tired words like "slag" and "tart". You get the idea.

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How anyone can look at that photo and be more offended by Campion's skirt than Joyce's gaze is baffling.

What this reaction does is put the responsibility on her shoulders. She wanted the attention. She led him astray. She had it planned out. She's a homewrecker. Oh and the bloke who was her boss? He was just a poor victim of her seductive trap.

This is blatant slut-shaming. And considering we have little context on the circumstances leading to this photo, it is also blisteringly unfair.

All we know is that the photo took place at a farm summit in Sydney. That's it.

We don't know whether it was hot or cold. We don't know whether she was called to work on short notice, or whether she just really wanted to rock that outfit. And really, none of that matters. Women can wear whatever they damn well please.

Listen: The Mamamia Out Loud team discuss Kate Langbroek's comments about "the other woman". Post continues below. 

The obsession with how Campion is dressed is not only unacceptable, it is wholly unhelpful, distracting from what is, actually, a really important debate.

The question people should be asking is not "is Campion dressed appropriately?". Rather, it's "do we want Joyce in the second most powerful seat in Australian politics?"

Joyce is accused of using his position of power not only to have an affair with a younger and more junior employee, but also to cover it up by moving her to a different ministerial office - knowing full well all of this is against the rules of parliamentary conduct.

There are crucial questions that need to be answered about whether six-figure jobs were covertly created for Campion, and whether taxpayer funds were used to enable the relationship.

So when we look at this photo of Joyce checking out his staffer, this is where our scrutiny should be directed.

A picture can say 1000 words. We just need to make sure we're saying the right ones.

Because next week, when Malcolm Turnbull heads overseas on February 21, Barnaby Joyce is lined up to be Acting Prime Minister. As a nation we need to decide - is that a position we really want this man to have?

You can follow Sophie Aubrey on Twitter.

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