Q+A: Barnaby Joyce says office rules should not prevent a boss sleeping with an employee | Barnaby Joyce

Barnaby Joyce has said it is not necessarily wrong for a boss to sleep with an employee, saying he doesn’t think the “state” should determine how people feel.

In a restless appearance on the ABC’s Q+A program, the Nationals MP told the panel he did not think there was an inherent problem with a boss having a relationship with an employee, citing George Orwell’s 1984.

“I believe in the freedom of the individual to do as their heart desires.

“But human beings being what human beings are, the moment someone says, ‘No, I’m not interested – don’t do that,’ that’s it. That’s where it stops.”

But in a back-and-forth with the author Jane Caro, Joyce demanded to know why it should be the boss who had to disclose a relationship.

“What about the woman’s right to say whether she wants it disclosed or not? We seem to have completely ignored that bit” he told a bewildered panel.

Joyce proceeded to pepper Caro with questions and interruptions, forcing her into an exasperated explanation of how power dynamics in an office work.

“If the boss is a boss and is employed in that position, they have a duty of care to their staff. So, they actually have a responsibility both to the people they employ, and to the people who employ them,” Caro said. “That is their job!

“As an employee, in an affair with her boss, he has the duty of care to his employer and his employees. It needs to be disclosed.

“The problem with that is freedom is really hard to have if the power between the two people who are in the relationship is not equal.”

The exchange came after the former Labor MP Emma Husar related her experience as a woman in parliament, and what it was like to face accusations of misconduct.

Husar initially said she would stand down as a candidate for her seat of Lindsay after being accused of misconduct and bullying in her office, then reversed her decision, but was eventually disendorsed. A subsequent report by Labor lawyer John Whelan found most of the accusations were unfounded.

“It was completely unjust, what I went through. I had media cameras parked out the front of my house for weeks on end while I had young children inside.

“I was chased across my front lawn with a camera and mic shoved in my face, asking me if I was a slut or if I was Sharon Stone.”

Husar said she had moved from New South Wales to Perth to escape the “ridicule, trolling, horrendous threats and intimidation online”.

“I’m certainly not wishing that on those men [involved in relationships at work], but certainly asking: what the hell is this?

“We can’t put a woman out there and hang her out to dry on rumour and innuendo, when we have got behaviour that is clearly outside at least some standard of basic integrity going on.”

Caro also said she had seen few consequences for men behaving poorly in office or in professional environments, compared with those faced by women.

“It is always the woman who ends up trashed,” she said.

“Unfortunately, it seems to be always the woman that pays the price. I’ve heard so often people say, ‘She’s going to ruin his career.’ I’m yet to see many men whose careers have actually been ruined.

“I have seen a hell of a lot of women who have had to leave the country, get another job, whose whole life working life and ambition has been ruined.”

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