Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce has lashed out at “defamatory and spurious” comments made by a West Australian Labor MP who used parliamentary privilege to accuse him of having a history of groping women.
Jackie Jarvis used a speech in state parliament in the early hours of Friday morning to support her friend Catherine Marriott, who in 2018 accused Mr Joyce of sexual harassment.
Mr Joyce denied the allegations at the time and a subsequent internal Nationals party investigation did not make a finding into the matter.
Mr Joyce on Friday night responded to the comments, saying he invited Ms Jarvis to repeat them “without the cover of parliamentary privilege”.
“What a Labor Party person says about me at 2am under parliamentary privilege a number of days after I have been sworn in is politically understandable but defamatory and spurious,” he said in a statement.
Mr Joyce was returned as deputy prime minister on Monday after a Nationals leadership spill cast out his predecessor Michael McCormack.
He stepped down as deputy prime minister in 2018 following the sexual harassment claim, which he strongly denied.
At the time of his resignation, Mr Joyce was also under pressure after having an extra-marital affair with a former staffer, who he now has two children with.
Ms Jarvis said her friend Ms Marriott, nicknamed “Maz”, was devastated when her name was leaked as the complainant to the Nationals party investigation.
“In her own words, it was one of the most frightening things she has had to live through,” Ms Jarvis said in parliament.
“Maz had never had anything but a professional, albeit friendly, business relationship with Barnaby Joyce. This was not a flirtation gone wrong; there was nothing consensual about the incident.
“It took more than six months for Catherine Marriott to be told by the New South Wales branch of the National Party that it was unable to make a determination on her complaint, despite the report it prepared finding that Maz was forthright, believable, open and genuinely upset about the incident.”