Elizabeth Rolfe gives her view on the controversy surrounding Barnaby Joyce's affair with his media adviser, Vikki Campion
Young woman falls in love with her older boss. It's a familiar cliche. But these women shouldn't be shamed.
They should (at the very least) be acknowledged by their partner, and celebrate their love.
While the situation is often fraught and usually salacious, it can be more than that.
I should know. I fell in love with my boss. And I didn't want to hide.
The scenario is familiar.
I was a confident, independent, career-focused 24-year-old when I fell in love with my boss. He was almost 15 years my senior and I was intoxicated by his intelligence and sophistication — also the French bubbly he would order before dinner.
But this isn't the story of a sordid love affair. My story is one of great, true, crazy love. The kind of love you happily leave a job for. The kind that changes you fundamentally. The kind that leads to marriage and babies and real-life happily ever after.
I wanted to write my happily ever after story today. I wanted to publish pictures of my handsome husband embracing me and our two beautiful children. But my husband wants to keep private matters private. Like Barnaby Joyce.
So I won't tell his story but I must tell mine. It's important now, more than ever that we hear from the other woman, the younger woman, the employee. We're entering a public conversation about the dynamic between men in positions of power who are romantically involved with women who work for them. Women like me, like experienced journalist and political staffer Vikki Campion, should be involved in that conversation. We need to show that we are empowered. That we are happy. That we are not ashamed.
Vikki Campion is expecting a child with her former boss and Australia's Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce and everyone is talking about it. She was papped, visibly pregnant, in her exercise gear because her partner refused to confirm his new relationship publicly.
After the story broke this week, we heard from both Barnaby and his wife of 24 years, Natalie Joyce. Both had the opportunity to prepare their statements and were somewhat in control of their messages. Natalie Joyce feels "deceived and hurt" by her husband's affair. Barnaby feels "incredibly hurt" that his private life has been thrown into the public arena. There's a lot of talk about hurt and not much talk of love.
That makes me sad for Vikki Campion. Sad that the father of her unborn baby went on national television refusing to acknowledge her. Sad that he chose to focus on hurt. Because when I was pregnant with my first child, the overwhelming emotion I felt was love.
I understand why men like the National's leader and my husband want to keep their romantic lives private. Men typically don't like to talk about relationships whether there is scandal involved or not.
But now we're having a public conversation about men in positions of power in relationships with women who work for them. We must not leave it up to the men to dominate this conversation. Women like me — articulate, confident and empowered women — who love powerful men are rarely shrinking violets. We must not feel ashamed to say, "I've found happiness".
Perhaps Vikki Campion only wants privacy right now and her partner is defending her right to that but what about her right to be openly excited? To say she's happy to be "madly in love", as reported. I fear, even if she wanted to, her partner would not be so supportive of that.
Campion doesn't need sympathy or protection — she's not a victim. She does deserve to have some control over her own reputation. This is her great love. This is her family. This is her story too. But we won't get to hear her version of events because it might be damaging to her partner's career.
No doubt this whole story is heartbreaking for the Joyce family. By his own admission, Barnaby Joyce failed at marriage but he doesn't need to repeat his mistakes. By many accounts, he has been a mostly absent father. I'm not sure what he can do to make up for the time he's missed with his four daughters. I assume it's partly out of respect for them that he is refusing to speak publicly about his new relationship.
I do wish he would show his daughters that every woman deserves a partner who will stand up in front of the country and say, "I'm in love". But we must not wait for men to lead this conversation. For our children and our own empowerment, we must share our joy.
We do not need another generation of children growing up feeling ashamed to talk about their feelings.