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29 October 2014

Speaker refuses to investigate altering of Hansard by Barnaby Joyce's office

Bronwyn Bishop says ‘case is now closed’, shutting down Labor calls for speaker to examine whether there was an attempt to mislead parliament

Barnaby Joyce sits on the bench in the House of Representatives on Monday.

The government has shut down Labor’s calls for an investigation into whether Coalition frontbencher Barnaby Joyce deliberately misled parliament when his staff changed Hansard records.

Labor asked the speaker, Bronwyn Bishop, to review parliamentary tapes in order to determine whether the agriculture minister had knowingly changed Hansard records to correct factual errors.

On Monday, Joyce admitted that his staff had altered Hansard records, but said he had nothing to do with it.

“Minor edits were made to Hansard by my staff without my knowledge. My staff have been counselled. Consistent with standing orders, I have asked that the changes requested by my office be removed from Hansard before Hansard is finalised,” Joyce told parliament.

Bishop was satisfied with Joyce’s explanation, telling parliament on Tuesday that she had not listened to the tapes as “the case is now closed”.

A spokesman for leader of the house Christopher Pyne also drew a line under the incident.

Ministerial staff often change small details in Hansard to reflect spelling, titles and other factual elements.

But Tony Burke, Labor’s manager of opposition business, said on Monday that the alterations made by Joyce’s office go beyond what is common practice.

“Of all the things that you can do in this parliament that carry a penalty, the greatest gravity is reserved for deliberately misleading the house,”Burke said.
“Whether it was him or his office, somebody appears to have deliberately doctored the official record of what was said in parliament.”

Hansard had been changed to correct an error Joyce made last week regarding the government’s drought assistance package. In the address, Joyce referred to “over” 4,000 people applying for drought assistance. His office corrected that to read “nearly” 4,000. They also added a qualifier line that wasn’t originally in the speech, saying that “recipient[s] of the Interim Farm Household Allowance” would also receive the assistance.

The changes made by Joyce’s office have now been erased from the Hansard records.