SUBJECT/S: Doctoring of the Hansard.
WEDNESDAY, 26 OCTOBER 2016
JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES, FORESTRY AND RURAL AND REGIONAL AUSTRALIA: It’s a big week in Canberra this week for Australian agriculture. Yesterday I had the ASA 100 event and tomorrow I will address the National Farmers’ Congress and the event being held by Australia’s Live Export Council. It is a shame that all the very important issues we have to discuss are being distracted by the behaviour of Barnaby Joyce. This morning he continued to mislead and by doing so he only brings his own integrity down further. He misled on four points in particular and I want to address each of them.
First of all he suggested that Dr Paul Grimes asked that his letter to Barnaby Joyce, a letter we fought for two years to secure, was withdrawn by Dr Grimes. That is plainly incorrect. There is no evidence to suggest that is correct. In fact I have the email record which we were able to obtain thanks to Senate Estimates. The email is from a Barnaby Joyce staffer to Dr Grimes. It is dated March 11, 2015 and it reads, “Good afternoon Dr Grimes. Consistent with a request from Minister Joyce this afternoon, I intend to delete this email now from the system.” The attachment to that email of course originally was Dr Grimes’ letter to Minister Joyce, the same letter in which Dr Grimes directly challenged the Minister’s integrity.
The second mislead this morning was about the special Senate hearing called by Dr Grimes. Barnaby Joyce said nothing to see here. Nothing happened at the special Estimates hearing. That is incorrect. What we learned at that Senate Estimates hearing is that Dr Grimes was so frustrated by the turmoil around Barnaby Joyce’s Hansard changes and subsequent misleading of the House, Dr Grimes came up to Parliament House not long before question time to appeal to Barnaby Joyce to do the right thing. To ‘fess up and to correct the record and to stop drawing his departmental staff into the mud; which is exactly what Joyce was doing. Barnaby Joyce walked almost directly from the meeting with Dr Grimes, into Question Time and chose to pass up every opportunity we gave him, first by way of questions, then by way of a censure motion to ‘fess up and admit to those Hansard changes. He declined that opportunity. We only know that because of the special Estimates hearing.
The other point to be made about the special Estimates hearing called by Dr Grimes is that he was bullied and intimidated before the meeting and during the meeting. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out why someone first called the meeting indicating he had a lot to say, then said little at the meeting because he was bullied and intimidated.
The last point is: the sacking of Dr Grimes. Barnaby Joyce said this morning nothing to see here, nothing to do with me. We know the truth. Barnaby Joyce walked around to the Prime Minister’s office and said I am in trouble, I need this bloke sacked. Barnaby Joyce may not have wielded the knife but he was certainly behind its delivery.
Barnaby Joyce is acting like the typical bully. When backed into a corner, he thinks he can further mislead and bully his way out of the corner. Well he is sadly mistaken. He has made some very significant errors. I’m not so concerned about Barnaby Joyce’s integrity - that has already been determined - the facts are already before us. I am more concerned about the integrity of our parliamentary system and of our democracy.
Malcolm Turnbull needs to move on Barnaby Joyce and correct these wrongs. Barnaby Joyce needs to come into the House when we return and apologise. He needs to formally correct the record, something he has yet to do, but until the Prime Minister is prepared to take action on Barnaby Joyce, even a word from the Prime Minister would be good, then we can’t expect the Australian people to have any respect for, or confidence in, Australian democracy.