On 16 February 2018, a serious complaint relating to Barnaby Joyce was raised with Terry Redman MLA by Ms Catherine Marriott. With Ms Marriott’s permission, Mr Redman shared this information with me.
Ms Marriott asked for advice on how to lodge her complaint with the Party. It was her express wish that the matter be dealt with internally by The Nationals.
Mr Redman and I took the matter seriously and verbally referred Ms Marriott’s allegation to The Nationals Federal President Larry Anthony and Director Ben Hindmarsh on the same day it was raised with us. Mr Anthony and Mr Hindmarsh were in Western Australia to attend a scheduled State Executive and State Council meeting in Bindoon.
At the centre of this matter was a person in deep distress, seeking our assistance. As individuals and as an organisation we had a responsibility to ensure the complaint was dealt with appropriately and to give Ms Marriott confidence that it had been taken seriously.
Whether it was Ms Marriott, or someone else, we would have acted the same way.
Speculation that The Nationals WA secured Ms Marriott’s lawyer or PR company is false. Neither I, or The Nationals WA engaged or paid for these services for Ms Marriott. She has explained why she has engaged these services in a public statement – and I endorse and support her decision.
The notion there was a pre-meditated plan to co-ordinate an allegation to force Barnaby Joyce to step down is ridiculous, malicious and undermines the serious nature of the complaint Ms Marriott raised with Terry and I in good faith and without prejudice.
Mr Joyce’s own choices and actions led to him stepping down from the leadership. My colleagues and I stand by our statement that he was causing pain for his family, his colleagues and ongoing damage to The Nationals organisation. The Nationals WA reached the conclusion his leadership was no longer tenable, a position communicated internally and publicly.
I have been appalled by the rumour, innuendo, speculation and assumption that has erupted from this incident becoming publicly known. I have been horrified by comments that women who find themselves facing this situation are told to ‘put up or shut up’, a statement that is ignorant of the fact that facing court or reliving the incident through constant retelling in a public forum may not be an option for someone who has already been traumatised.
We must all remember the situation is deeply personal and traumatic for any person making a complaint and the person against which it has been made. Neither party should be denied natural justice.
We all have a responsibility to ensure robust processes are in place for anyone raising sexual harassment related issues in a confidential manner.