A businesswoman who accused Barnaby Joyce of sexual harassment has broken her silence, claiming she was warned never to speak about the alleged incident by her friends or she’d be “destroyed”.
In her first televised interview with – set to air on ABC’s 7.30 on Tuesday night – Catherine Marriott claimed she was left in tears and unable to sleep for a week following the alleged incident.
Joyce has always denied the allegations against him and previously branded them “spurious and defamatory”.
The 2012 WA Rural Woman of the Year alleges the incident happened after a function in Canberra in August 2016, but told host Leigh Sales she initially stayed silent.
“[After the incident] I walked up to my hotel room and I burst into tears. I then couldn’t sleep that whole night. I didn’t actually sleep for a week,” Marriott said, according to the ABC.
“I rang two of my closest friends and I told them what had happened, and they said they couldn’t believe … they were just absolutely shocked, and they said, ‘You can’t tell anyone. You cannot tell anyone… you will be destroyed if this comes out’.”
However, it was the tragic suicide of 14-year-old Aussie girl Dolly Everett that eventually persuaded her to make an anonymous complaint against the then-agricultural minister.
Dolly famously wrote an inspiring message before her death, saying: “Speak even if your voice shakes,” and Marriott told the show the words “cut her to the core”.
She lodged the confidential complaint with the National Party in February, but the details were then leaked to the public shortly after.
“That is one of the most frightening things that you will ever have to live through,” she said on the show.
“The control that I had over my own identity was taken away, and that’s something that I will live now with for the rest of my life, and I think, you know, I think it was really unfair, and it was really horrific.”
Joyce responded to the allegations in a statement to 7.30, and said he asked for the matter to be handled by police.
“I absolutely deny any allegation of sexual harassment,” he said. “I asked that this be referred to the police if the complainant wished to pursue this issue so I had the capacity to defend myself, as I firmly believe the complaint to be spurious and defamatory.
“This allegation should have been dealt with immediately [after] the complainant first believed there was an issue they wished to pursue, and the passage of nearly a year and a half since the time of the event to when the allegation was raised has not allowed a clearer determination on this issue.”
Marriott insisted she had chosen to speak out to urge the government to review its future harassment policies.
The Nationals failed to reach a verdict following an eight-month investigation over the sexual harassment allegations due to ‘insufficient evidence’. The allegations against Joyce were part of the reason he resigned as deputy PM and were made following news that he had been having an affair with former staffer Vikki Campion.
“It’s quite evident that you can’t go to the dispatch box while issues like that are outstanding,” Joyce said at the time, adding that he wanted his party to have clear air to represent the people of small towns across Australia.