It’s claim and counter claim over Barnaby Joyce’s Tuesday night trip to hospital. The Australian reported yesterday:

At Canberra Hospital, rules are rules, and one of the strictest is that only family get in to see emergency cases.

There are no exceptions, not even for acting Prime Minister Mark Vaile with his police escorts flashing their credentials trying to see politician-of-the-moment Barnaby Joyce, who was admitted on Tuesday night with a suspected heart attack.

“That means nothing here, sonny,” hospital staff overheard a desk nurse say to the Australian Federal Police officer who had demanded they be allowed to pass.

“There was a bit of a kerfuffle, they were trying to get in to see him. The staff member at the front desk said: ‘You’re not family, you’re not getting in’,” a staff member said. Senator Joyce had arrived at the hospital at 8.45pm complaining of a migraine and was admitted as a suspected heart attack case, according to hospital staff…”

Labor sources were also suggesting yesterday an AFP officer flashed his badge to try to force the issue. Julia Gillard raised the matter in Question Time, asking Vaile to “confirm that he attended the Canberra Hospital on the evening of 13 September to visit Senator Barnaby Joyce” and if he “directed an AFP officer to try to misuse his authority in order to gain access.”

This was a pretty serious allegation – inappropriate and possibly illegal use of a police badge, exacerbated if the officer was directed to act that way by a senior minister.

Vaile denied it: “The answer to the first part of the member for Lalor’s question is yes, as any leader of any political party would also have compassion for their colleagues. The answer to the second part of her question is no.”

Still, life in the Barnyard has proved too much for Barnaby’s media adviser, Leonie Lyons, who began work with the ABC in Port Pirie in country South Australia this week.

Peter Fray

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