Of the many think pieces on The Daily Telegraph‘s revelation this week that Barnaby Joyce is having a baby with a former staffer, Sky’s Samantha Maiden’s effort made some especially good points.

She argues in her Daily Telegraph op-ed that Joyce and his media team could very well have taken control of how the news went out themselves:

It would have been more gentlemanly in my opinion for the Deputy PM and his media team to manage this situation for his new partner, his wife and his four daughters. They were offered many, many opportunities to release the information in a controlled way. They chose not to. Yes it’s private. But he is a public figure. Controlling how his happy baby news got into the public domain was not something beyond the powers of the second most powerful politician in the land.

It makes you wonder whether Joyce and his minders thought of looking back at the Top End, to how another senior Australian politician handled the media when his partner and former staffer fell pregnant.

The NT’s then-chief minister Adam Giles had not long split from his wife in 2014 when he started dating Phoebe Stewart, a staffer in his office, who — like Joyce’s new partner — was a former journalist for the local News Corp paper, the NT News (as well as the ABC). That relationship was an arguably more-open secret than the Joyce affair, but it wasn’t reported in the news until Stewart fell pregnant in 2015.

And, instead of trying to declare “private matters remain private” and leaving it to the media to take paparazzi shots of a pregnant woman, the Territory’s First Couple sat down for a sympathetic profile and photoshoot with the NT News.

Once the story was out there, the couple was mostly left alone: there was a picture story in the paper when the baby was born, and some light coverage elsewhere.

As the Tele‘s editor Chris Dore asked yesterday when Crikey asked for a comment on the decision to run the story: “What would they (journalists) have done when he started pushing a pram around Lake Burley Griffin or Parliament House?”.

Among the outlets who’ve said they had tried asking questions about the affair is Joyce’s hometown paper, The Northern Daily Leader, who also said they offered Joyce a sit-down interview “to get on the front foot with his local paper” during the New England byelection campaign last year, which was refused.

If Joyce wanted to avoid the frenzy, perhaps he could have taken some lessons from Giles’ very similar path.

Peter Fray

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