The woman at the centre of the Barnaby Joyce bum-pinching scandal has broken her silence, opening up to The Leader about the alleged incident.
The Deputy Prime Minister has denied he pinched the woman’s bum at a Canberra pub, following the 2011 Rural Women’s Awards, saying he “completely rejected the allegation”.
The Leader has chosen not to publish the woman’s identity.
“I knew he was a senator and I saw he was behaving inappropriately for a senator,” she told The Leader.
“I walked over and told him ‘Barnaby, you’re drunk, go home’.
“That’s when he leant over and pinched me on the bottom.”
The woman then went over to her friend, John Clements, who was the former chief adviser to previous New England MP Tony Windsor.
Mr Clements told The Leader he confronted Mr Joyce, after the women told him what the then-Queensland Senator had done.
“She was rattled, which surprised me, because I’ve never seen her rattled," Mr Clements said.
“She told me he had pinched her on the bum. I told her I’d have a word with him.
“I tapped him on the shoulder, pointed to her and said ‘What do you think you’re doing?’
Mr Clements said that Mr Joyce turned around, but when the Senator saw where he was pointing, turned back around and ignored him.
“I got his attention again and said ‘I think you need to leave, you’re out of order’,” Mr Clements said.
“By this point other people had come over to talk to him about his behaviour, so I walked away. He left a minute later.”
The woman said Mr Joyce’s “dreadful behaviour” left her “appalled and very disappointed”.
The Leader sent specific questions to Mr Joyce on three separate occasions in the past 10 days, however his office refused to answer them, instead pointing to an earlier statement which said “no such thing happened”.
The allegationscame hard on the heels of the revelation Mr Joyce’s marriage had broken down and he was in a new relationship with a former staffer, Vikki Campion. They are expecting a baby in April.
Questions have been raised around the timing of Mr Joyce and Ms Campion’s relationship. The fact that Ms Campion went on to hold high-paying jobs in the offices of other National Party ministers after leaving Mr Joyce’s office as a media adviser has been scrutinised.
The Deputy Prime Minister has denied the pub incident happened and publicly declared that the story was being peddled by his political rivals.
“This and similar nonsense has been retailed in the past by embittered political opponents,” he said in his statement.
Mr Clements said he was the first to point out he was the media adviser to long-time New England MP Tony Windsor. However he said this had nothing to do with politics.
“I didn’t even know him at the time, that was the first time I ever talked to him,” Mr Clements said.
“In 2011 he was just a Queensland Senator. There was never any word on him moving to the seat of New England. He was just a bloke in a pub and he was out of order.”
Mr Clements said the reaction to the claims was a case of “that’s what happens when you stand up to the Nationals, you’re characterised as angry, bitter and a political rival”.
In December 2015, Mr Clements sent a series of text messages to Sally Cray, who serves as Prime Minister Turnbull's principal private secretary, warning her of the alleged misconduct.
“I might add he [Mr Joyce] was reminded of his behaviour the following year in a speech,” Mr Clements said in one message.
He also described Mr Joyce as having been in “full flight”.
At the time of the messages to Ms Cray, Mr Joyce was the Agriculture and Water Minister in the Turnbull government. He became Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leader nearly two months later.
Mr Clements told Ms Cray in one text he was writing to her off the record.
“Agree it’s all off record,” Ms Cray replied immediately.
“It’s hard if there was not an official complaint at the time to act.”
Ms Cray went on to describe the alleged behaviour as “unacceptable”.
Mr Clements then replied that “the rural women’s award pub incident has too many witnesses to go away...Joyce will cop media over it”.
Metropolitan news organisations have reportedly spoken to other women who were also present at the night who had made similar statements about his behaviour.
“He was loud and obnoxious and very drunk – there was no point in me networking, or discussing policy initiatives with him, because he was in no fit state, it was definitely party time,” one women told a Sydney masthead.