A WA Labor MP has told state Parliament she was warned in 2014 that Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce had a history of groping women.
Jackie Jarvis made the comments about the re-elected Nationals leader during a speech in WA’s Upper House at 2:00am last night, in which she spoke out in support of her friend Catherine Marriott.
Ms Marriott, a former WA Rural Woman of the Year, has previously accused Mr Joyce of sexual harassment.
Mr Joyce categorically denied Ms Marriott’s allegations, calling them “spurious and defamatory”, and an investigation by the National Party was inconclusive.
Almost three years later, Mr Joyce was this week reelected as Nationals leader before regaining his position as Deputy Prime Minister.
I was warned about sexual harassment: Jarvis
Ms Jarvis, who was the WA winner of the Rural Women’s Award in 2014, told the WA Legislative Council Ms Marriott was a friend of hers.
She described Ms Marriott as “smart, articulate, passionate, professional, bold and loyal”, and said she first heard of her sexual harassment claim against Mr Joyce when it emerged in 2018.
“2018 was not the first time I’d heard that man’s name linked to claims of sexual harassment,” Ms Jarvis said.
“In 2014, I was the WA winner of the Rural Women’s Award, and myself along with other state winners and runners-up all gathered in Canberra ahead of the national award event.
“And we were told, a number of us were told by a person involved in organising the event, to be careful of Barnaby Joyce because he had a history of groping women.
“I just want to make myself absolutely clear: I was the WA representative in Australia’s leading award for rural women, and I was warned that the then-federal agricultural minister was known to sexually harass women at events.”
Confusion over who laid complaint
Ms Jarvis told Parliament that in early 2018, rumours started circulating that a past Rural Women’s Award winner was lodging a complaint about Mr Joyce.
“Many of us [Rural Women’s Award alumni] were getting calls from journalists, so we actually convened a bit of a teleconference,” she said.
“There were participants from around Australia on that teleconference. From memory, there was about six or eight women on that call.
“What was interesting from that call is that a lot of the women on that call had either witnessed some form of harassment or had had firsthand accounts from other women.
“So, while there was a rumour circulating about a past Rural Women’s Award winner, it was actually hard to pinpoint which one it might have been.”
Ms Marriott alleged the incident took place after a function in Canberra in August 2016.
She lodged a confidential complaint with the federal branch of the National Party, with no intention of ever taking the matter public, and was devastated when details of the complaint and her name leaked.
‘We will not let women be harassed’
In her speech to Parliament, Ms Jarvis said Mr Joyce spoke at the 2014 Rural Women’s Award she attended.
“Barnaby Joyce stood up and said, and I quote: ‘Australia is lucky to have so many strong dedicated women who are leaders in their community,'” she said.
“Well, President, I can assure you that those same strong women are rallying the troops and we will not let a new generation of bright young women be harassed by that man.
“And to the women who have not yet told their stories, I ask you to look to Catherine Marriott, Grace Tame, Brittany Higgins, for the strength you need to do what is right for you.”
The ABC has attempted to contact Mr Joyce for comment.