The CLP president, Tory Mencshelyi, said the woman resigned from the Country Liberals in May before being photographed at the campaign launch of Damian Hale, Labor’s candidate for Barrett’s seat of Blain in Palmerston.
“I believe the story has been brought about to damage the Country Liberals,” she told reporters on Tuesday. “[The woman] resigned from the party on the 15th of May; several days later she was seen as part of Team Hale.”
The CLP says it has hired expert data retrieval personnel to get to the bottom of the matter of the pair’s communications to determine whether Barrett’s messages were unwelcome.
“I want to be clear, I’m not condoning the behaviour of the member for Blain in any way at all,” Mencshelyi said.
She said she had been informed that the affair was “between two consenting adults” but, when asked what evidence there was that it was consensual besides Barrett’s word, Mencshelyi said the party was still investigating “and trying to retrieve information that others seem to have”.
Barrett would remain a member of the party and be afforded “natural justice” under the CLP’s constitution, she said.
“It’s been reported as through Nathan Barrett is out knocking on the doors of constituents, which is not the case at all,” she said. “This is a party member who attended meetings over a lengthy period of time with Nathan and a friendship evolved.”
Mencshelyi said she was unaware of reports that two senior MPs were threatening to quit the party if Barrett was not dumped entirely.
She also denied the CLP had a problem with women, which had previously been alleged by three former female MPs who left it to sit as independents.
Mencshelyi said there were many women in leadership roles in the party including herself, two NT MLAs and the federal member for Solomon, Natasha Griggs.
“I don’t think the party has a problem with women at all,” she said.
Comment is being sought from Labor.