Bar staff intervened in a stand-off between Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and an anti-mining campaigner at a New England Pub on Thursday night.
- CCTV footage does not reveal what was said between the pair
- Bar staff reported the women were “verbally aggressive” towards Mr Joyce
- Ms Chirlian has demanded an apology from Mr Joyce
There are a number of different versions of the event that took place at Uralla’s Top Pub, when the Deputy Prime Minister arrived after a series of campaign events. Liverpool Plains beef farmer and anti-mining activist Nicola Chirlian, who had been selected to question Mr Joyce during the Q&A broadcast earlier in the week and who is a supporter of independent candidate Tony Windsor, approached the Deputy Prime Minister in the venue.
Ms Chirlian said she wanted him to attend a forum in Tamworth later this month against the proposed Shenhua coal mine, but he got loud after she approached him several times.
“He said ‘Nicky piss off, just piss off’,” Ms Chirlian said.
“At that stage, the bar staff came in beside me and she put her arm straight out between Barnaby Joyce and myself.
“He was physically quite close. I was pretty shocked.”
Ms Chirlian said she had emailed Mr Joyce’s office on Friday, asking for an apology.
“I think that for the Deputy Prime Minister to use those words to a constituent is highly inappropriate,” she said.
Women were ‘verbally aggressive’
A spokeswoman for Mr Joyce has released a statement in response to the criticism.
“I was talking to locals who invited me over to have a beer with them,” the statement said.
“I was approached by people who were persistent and badgering about a forum which I advised them I would not attend.
“I left to go to the bathroom and when I came back they were pestering the group.
“The bar staff intervened and asked them to leave.”
The statement did not address the question of whether Ms Chirlian’s recollection of Mr Joyce’s wording was accurate.
But a supporter of Mr Joyce who witnessed the conversation, Lisa Williams, said the Deputy Prime Minister did not use the language the women claimed.
“He just said something along the lines of ‘you’re at my office all the time, just go away’,” she said.
She said another member of her group did use the phrase “piss off” but not Mr Joyce.
Publican Matt Campbell said bar staff reported to him the women were “verbally aggressive” towards Mr Joyce.
Mr Campbell said he has since reviewed the closed circuit television recording of the exchange but was not able to make out the words that were spoken by those involved.
Mining on the Liverpool Plains is one of the most divisive issues in the fight for New England.
On Q&A Ms Chirlian asked Mr Joyce why the Federal Government could not use the constitution to intervene in CSG exploration there.