SUBJECT/S: Dr Grimes letter, Barnaby Joyce doctoring Hansard.
TUESDAY, 25 OCTOBER 2016
JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES, FORESTRY AND RURAL AND REGIONAL AUSTRALIA: Australian democracy is under attack and our system of ministerial responsibility is in decay. All so Malcolm Turnbull can cling on to his job as Prime Minister. The question becomes how low is Malcolm Turnbull prepared to allow ministerial and Parliamentary Standards to fall before he starts taking action and holding his Ministers to account. For two years now, the Government, both Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull have done all in their power to prevent me from uncovering the facts behind Barnaby Joyce’s decision to dramatically alter his Hansard. But worse, mislead the House on two occasions. Anyone reading the letter from Dr Grimes released yesterday can be in no doubt that Barnaby Joyce was into the Hansard changes up to his eyeballs and that he misled the House on two occasions. As a result of all of this, a very senior, respected and professional public servant has lost his job. He should not have lost his job. His reputation remains tarnished by these events. Malcolm Turnbull must now act to see that Dr Grimes' reputation is restored to its rightful place and he needs to say something about the behaviour of Barnaby Joyce and what he is prepared to do to their ministerial standards and accountability. The Solicitor-General is gone. Dr Paul Grimes is gone. Gillian Triggs has been under attack for daring to disagree with the Government. It is pretty clear these days anyone who disagrees with this Government, any professional public servant who gives frank and fair advice to this Government faces execution. This is not acceptable. It is an attack on our democratic systems. Malcolm Turnbull needs to start speaking out and hold his Ministers to account.
JOURNALIST: What are you expecting Malcolm Turnbull to do?
FITZGIBBON: The first thing Malcolm Turnbull needs to do is to explain to what extent he is prepared to allow ministerial standards to fall. Once upon a time, misleading the House was considered a serious offence. When it ceases to become a serious offence, then our democracy and our Parliamentary system is undermined. Malcolm Turnbull's silence on this issue has been deafening. No less than his Deputy Prime Minister is now charged with misleading the House, doctoring his Hansard, and sacking or having sacked a senior and respected public servant to save himself. Malcolm Turnbull needs to have something to say. If he doesn't believe this is a sackable offence, he needs to explain why.
JOURNALIST: Joel, this story is a little bit old. Why are you pursuing it?
FITZGIBBON: It is interesting that the statutory of limitation is generally 7 years. Barnaby Joyce wants to claim that 17 months or two years is enough to put this to bed. No. No less than the Deputy Prime Minister of this country misled the House on two occasions. He dramatically made changes to his Hansard record, having misled the House in answer to a question to me. And a very senior and respected public servant is now without a job. Barnaby Joyce must respond to Dr Grimes' letter and Malcolm Turnbull must say now what he's prepared to do about this fall in ministerial standards.
JOURNALIST: You’ve said that Mr Joyce misled the House. Isn't it also true that Mr Joyce did come back into the Chamber to check the record but then the original Hansard was subsequently changed?
FITZGIBBON: Barnaby Joyce was dragged screaming back to the House of Representatives to finally admit, after some pressure from Dr Grimes, by the way, and of course some pressure from me, including a censure motion in the House, dragged screaming back to the House to admit that his Hansard record had changed. But then he threw his staff under the bus saying that the Hansard changes had been made without his knowledge. Pigs might fly too. No-one believes that a staff member would dramatically and substantially change a Cabinet Minister's Hansard without his knowledge. It is just unbelievable.
JOURNALIST: At the end of this day, this is a mistake to do with the Parliamentary Hansard. Is that really a sackable offence when it was essentially a mistake to do with the Household Allowance. Is it really something as big as say the Justin Gleeson affair?
FITZGIBBON: No, Barnaby Joyce deliberately embellished an answer in response to my question about drought relief. He knew his Drought Relief Package was inadequate so he made it up as he went along to make it sound better. For example, saying people applying for Farm Household Allowance received it immediately. Ask the farmers out there who have been desperately trying to secure the Farm Household Allowance how that works. He deliberately misled the Parliament then he deliberately changed the Hansard because he realised he overreached and then disgustingly tried to blame his staff. Again, it is always someone else's fault with Barnaby Joyce.
JOURNALIST: Do you think Paul Grimes deserves compensation? What has happened to him, do you know?
FITZGIBBON: I will leave the terms of Paul Grimes’ departure to others. I know he was provided a substantial payout. This means this whole Hansardgate affair has cost Australian taxpayers up to a million dollars. $90,000 a piece for review of Freedom of Information guidelines within the Department, at least $35,000 taking me to court to try cover up this issue and deny us access to the Dr Grimes letter and of course a substantial payout to Dr Grimes. It has been a very expensive exercise for the taxpayer this one and it has all been about covering up for Barnaby Joyce.