The woman who lodged sexual harassment allegations against Barnaby Joyce has lashed out at the Nationals for failing to reach a verdict on the case, saying her experience underscored the “dire need for change”.
Catherine Marriott, whose complaint helped force the former deputy prime minister’s resignation from cabinet in February, on Friday released a statement saying the party had informed her an eight-month investigation “has been unable to make a determination” about the allegation due to insufficient evidence.
Catherine Marriott has blasted the Nationals.
“This is despite the investigation finding I was ‘forthright, believable, open and genuinely upset’ by the incident,” Ms Marriott wrote.
“The result of this investigation has underpinned what is wrong with the process and the absolute dire need for change. This outcome simply isn’t good enough.”
Ms Marriott’s confidential complaint to the Nationals was lodged at the height of the controversy over Mr Joyce’s affair with former staffer Vikki Campion, and was promptly leaked to the media, along with her identity.
Ms Marriott – a former West Australian Rural Woman of the Year – said she was extremely disappointed in the verdict after having her personal and professional life “upended”, making three trips to the east coast at her own expense to meet with party officials during the investigation and waiting months for an outcome.
“While dismayed at the finding, I am not surprised as the party never had the external processes in place to deal with a complaint of sexual harassment by a member of Parliament,” she said.
“My complaint was handled internally by NSW National Party executive with no professional external expert brought in at any stage to handle the matter.”
The conclusion of the investigation comes as the major parties face heavy scrutiny over the treatment of women in politics, and accusations that the bullying and mistreatment of female MPs is being ignored by male-dominated party hierarchies.
Mr Joyce has denied the allegations, which related to his behaviour outside an event at Canberra’s Kurrajong Hotel in 2016.
He told Fairfax Media on Friday that he stood by his initial statements on the issue, when he branded the allegations “spurious and defamatory”.
“I’m not going to enter into any further discussions on this matter,” he said on Friday.
“I’ve been informed of the party’s findings and that’s it … I’m going to move on from this ASAP.”
Ms Marriott’s complaint cemented Mr Joyce’s fall from grace after his affair with Ms Campion, his former media advisor, attracted a deluge of criticism including an embarassing rebuke from then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.
In a statement, the National Party’s NSW branch confirmed the investigation had been finalised. But it did not divulge the outcome and said the final report will not be publicly released.
Ms Marriott said the incident had come at “enormous personal expense”.
However, “I was not prepared to walk past this kind of behaviour any longer. I am pleased I stood up for what I believed was right and I’m proud I found the courage to make a difference for other people who want to create influence through political circles in future,” she said.
The only positive to come from the “harrowing experience” was the National Party’s development of a better policy to handle such complaints, she said.
“I feel heartened that this has been achieved and people who find themselves in similar situations to me in the future will have a robust policy in place to assist them.”