THE man accused of stalking Barnaby Joyce claims he has only met him twice – but admitted to provoking him, which ended with a hat-flicking incident at the Graman Hotel near Inverell on Monday night.
Former Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the National Party, Barnaby Joyce, told Fairfax Media on Tuesday that he was being stalked and did not deny flicking a man’s hat off during a heated encounter at the New England pub.
Fairfax Media has been approached by the man at the centre of the spat and then also spoke to a witness to the incident, which took place during an informal political meet and greet.
The man is believed to have made a comment about Mr Joyce’s personal life as he left the pub, which prompted a “threatening” response.
When asked about the incident, Mr Joyce said that his “private life is private”.
He said that he had “death threats and now we’ve got stalkers”.
“The campaign is becoming dirty and people are sending people around to stalk you,” he said.
“He’s been basically pursuing me, and not just there”.
In response, the man, who wished to remain anonymous fearing a backlash, said he had only met Mr Joyce twice, but admitted to having used Twitter, Facebook and email to express his views to the New England by-election candidate..
He said some of the social media posts had been “pretty rapidly deleted”.
"I don't think I've done any more than any other political opponent would ever do or what happens to anyone in the political public eye,” he said.
“[Emails] would have been just political things about his support for fossil fuels and so forth.
“I don't think that constitutes stalking.”
The man, a one-time Tony Windsor supporter who said he is no longer aligned with any political party, said the first time he had met Mr Joyce was unplanned at a Bingara pub.
The second time was the Graman Hotel.
The man said he had canvassed friends on “What would you like me to ask Barnaby?” before he arrived, so “I had a big list of questions to ask”.
"He was friendly initially and then I asked him whether he was going to pay back the money he had earned while he was illegally in parliament. That obviously hit a nerve,” the man said.
"Then he's like, ‘Who are you with? Who sent you?’ I'm like, ‘I'm with no one’.”
The man said that he had mentioned mining magnate Gina Rinehart's $40,000 agriculture award (which Mr Joyce declined) and “he took umbrage with that”.
"His supporters, of which most of the people in the pub were, sort of started to round on me a bit,” the man said.
“One of them threatened to throw me down the stairs,” he said.
"Barnaby said, ‘Mate, you're being a goose ... I’m going over there’ and he walked off.”
The man said about half an hour later, as Mr Joyce was leaving, he came back over .
"He shook my hand and I said, ‘Barnaby, I'd like to make your life difficult because it seems nobody is asking you the difficult questions’ or words to that effect,” the man said.
“He said, I'll be at the Tamworth Leagues Club, as if it was an invitation, and walked out.”
As Mr Joyce moved to the door the man made the statement about the candidate’s personal life.
"He stormed back in … and loomed over me, hissing ‘What did you just say’? He was definitely being very threatening,” the man said.
"My friend grabbed him by the elbow and then he flicked my hat off and stormed out.
"They're the only encounters I have ever had with Barnaby."
The pub incident was backed up by a witness, who is also a friend of the man.
The witness said he believed Mr Joyce had assumed his friend was a Greens supporter and, as a result, “had immediately dismissed him, his questions and the relevance of his questions”.
The witness confirmed that a comment of a personal nature was made towards Mr Joyce as he was leaving the pub.
The man said Mr Joyce did a U-turn and came back at his friend in a “very aggressive manner”.
“I intervened in a placid way to try to prevent Barnaby from escalating [the incident],” the man said.
He said he encouraged Mr Joyce to leave, saying that “it's probably not worth it”.
The matter has been referred to the Australian Federal Police, which confirmed it was aware of an incident which involved Mr Joyce, but as they were evaluating the matter could not comment.
The witness said that he had also contacted the authorities and was willing to corroborate his friend’s story, “because I consider it's absurd that it's been referred to the AFP”.
Mr Joyce was asked to respond to questions on how many times he had had contact with the man at the centre of the incident, but through his campaign staff declined to be interviewed.