SUBJECT/S: Barnaby Joyce doctoring of Hansard, Gillian Triggs


HOST: We’ve tried to speak to the Attorney General and we have tried to speak to Barnaby Joyce and neither were available. The Shadow Minister for Agriculture is Joel Fitzgibbon. Good afternoon.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES, FORESTRY AND RURAL AND REGIONAL AUSTRALIA: G’day Raf, it’s good to be with you. It’s a real shock that you couldn’t get Barnaby Joyce.
HOST: It’s surprising, but look do we learn anything substantial from this letter? It’s clear the incident with Hansard is regrettable, but he did go into the Chamber and correct what he said. What do we learn that’s new with this letter?
FITZGIBBON: He only changed it Raf because he got caught out and then he only came into the Chamber to correct the matter because he was dragged kicking and screaming by Dr Paul Grimes and that is largely what this issue is about . Paul Grimes had gone to see Barnaby privately to appeal to him to drop this cover up and fix the record and do the right thing. He was particularly concerned about the way in which Barnaby Joyce, in an attempt to cover up his crimes, was dragging other departmental officials into the mire. It was Dr Grimes’ responsibility to make sure their reputations were not tarnished.
HOST: It’s not a substantial revelation is it? We know there was a difference and we know it was corrected not quite properly. Why is it significant we get a look at the letter?
FITZGIBBON: The letter is confirmation that Joyce was into the Hansard changes up to his eyeballs. The cover up was...
HOST: It doesn’t say that explicitly.
FITZGIBBON: Well I don’t know what other ethical issues he would be referring to if it wasn’t that. We know the timing with not just this letter, but generally. We also know Grimes called a special meeting of the Senate Estimates Committee which is fairly extraordinary. The media scrum up here were all ready for him to say something that was going to bring Barnaby Joyce undone, but something happened between the calling of the meeting and Dr Grimes’ appearance because in the end Dr Grimes had very little to say. We now know, because of the timing of certain emails that Grimes was bullied between the calling of the meeting and the meeting itself and probably that’s when the idea started to emerge that he would be paid out and moved on.
HOST: Is it bullying? I understand there are substantial issues worthy of argument with this and with the Attorney General George Brandis fundamentally. If the Minister falls out with the public servant and that relationship is no longer working, people are allowed to disagree in the workplace. It’s the right thing for the politician to stay and the public servant to move on, no?
FITZGIBBON: It depends what the disagreement and the falling out is all about. In this case it was Dr Paul Grimes’ concern that Barnaby Joyce had misled the Parliament on two occasions. One around his description of the failed Drought Policy, but more particularly, blaming his staff about the Hansard changes. Having been a Cabinet Minister more than once, I can tell you staff of a Cabinet Minister would not make such substantial changes to Hansard without the knowledge of the Minister. It’s just inconceivable. It’s the role of our senior public servants to provide frank and fearless advice to out Ministers and that underpins the Westminster System, and when you lose that. I mean when misleading the House ceases to be taken seriously, how can we have real confidence Minsters aren’t doing it on a regular basis?
HOST: Is there a substantial difference between Barnaby Joyce saying people could get drought assistance immediately or after a number of months? Does that make a substantial difference there?
FITZGIBBON: It was more than that. We were able to make the point when I asked Barnaby Joyce questions in the following days. I was able to hold up two pieces of paper. One which was the original Hansard and the other had in yellow highlighted text all the changes, and I can tell you, they were more substantial than just the one point. That point was the example used because for him to say, you just apply for Farm Household Allowance and don’t have to wait you just get it straight away, it’s an insult to every farmer who had been waiting weeks if not months to secure that payment.
HOST: Can I ask you, this is not really your portfolio, but there is a lot of discussion in Canberra about various people appointed to lead departments in the public service and statutory appointments. Gillan Triggs, head of the Human Rights Commission, she effectively misled a Senate Committee, when she denied having said she wanted to destroy the Coalition politicians on the committee. Is that as much of an offence as you say that Barnaby Joyce did in the Parliament?
FITZGIBBON: That’s a very complex matter but I think the key point there is the whole Gillian Triggs affair began because she dared to take a different position than the Government of the day. It’s the same thing Justin Gleeson did in affect and hat Dr Grimes did.
HOST: Just the principle, when do we say you’ve got to be honest in a Parliamentary setting. You’re very keen to ensure Barnaby Joyce was honest. Is it fair to apply the same standard to Gillian Triggs. Clearly she has a difference with the Government over children in detention but shouldn’t she be held to the same standard?
FITZGIBBON: Barnaby Joyce faces a much higher standard. The whole Westminster System is underpinned by the idea a Minister not dare mislead the House and it is something that is a serious offence and would be the end of his or her career. That’s now diminishing. It appears you can abandon and mislead the House not on one occasion but twice and just sail away without any criticism from Malcolm.
HOST: Barnaby Joyce did go back into the House to correct it.
FITZGIBBON: No, in fact Raf he has never done that. I’m going to make this point when the Parliament next meets. He has never come back in to correct what he said and apologise to farmers. All he did was come in and say, oh I found out after the event, someone in my office changed my Hansard, they have been counselled and it has been corrected back. That’s all he said and that is not a correction of what he said in the House and he needs to do so.
HOST: Joel Fitzgibbon, thanks for your time.
FITZGIBBON: It’s a great pleasure.

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