back to top

This Senator Hid In A Bathroom For 10 Minutes While We Tried To Ask Her Questions

“I have nothing to say on that.”

Posted on

Liberal senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells fled the venue of the Coalition’s official campaign launch on Sunday after being confronted by BuzzFeed News with questions about the recent mass departure of staff from her office.

Lukas Coch / AAPIMAGE

The senator, whose career the prime minister recently saved in an “extraordinary” intervention, refused to answer several questions about serious allegations relating to her office.

BuzzFeed News revealed last month that 14 staff members had left Fierravanti-Wells’ office since January last year. Several current and former staff members came forward to BuzzFeed News with their stories, but would not go on the record for fear of retribution.

Since then, Fierravanti-Wells’ office has not returned calls and requests for an interview about the circumstances surrounding their departures.

At the end of prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s speech at Homebush in Sydney on Sunday, MPs including Fierravanti-Wells gathered in a back room, separated from the media by a long corridor.

Lukas Coch / AAPIMAGE

When the senator emerged and walked down the hall, she noticed me waiting for her, and ducked into the nearest door, a female toilet.

Ten minutes passed.

Fierravanti-Wells came out of the bathroom, walking quickly past me and the assembled media.

“Hello Senator Fierravanti-Wells, I’d just like to ask some questions about the staff members who left your office over the last 18 months,” I said.

She replied, “Sorry I have to catch a plane to Wollongong”.

At the bottom of the staircase, the venue's security guards became aware of our interaction and started following us through the lobby of the hotel. One tried to block my access to the senator.

“I have nothing to say on that. I understand we’ve previously given you a statement on that matter.”

BuzzFeed News asked Fierravanti-Wells in May about the mass departure of staff. She declined to confirm specific numbers, but said:

“The staff numbers provided by you are not correct. At each of my ministerial promotions since May 2015, staff have chosen to either continue working for me, transfer to the incoming minister or assistant minister, or leave, for example, to work in the private sector at which point they receive the relevant departure entitlements. This is the standard process which occurs for all ministers following reshuffles.”

Fierravanti-Wells is one of the most senior members of the Coalition government and serves as minister for international development and the Pacific. Her place on the NSW senate ticket came under threat earlier this year after a revolt within the party. Malcolm Turnbull intervened and saved Fierravanti-Wells before an emergency Liberal meeting held last month.

I followed her into the front carpark of the hotel.

“Are you running from questions relating to this and other incidents, senator?”

No reply. She walked out of the carpark, on to the street and was gone.

Mark Di Stefano is a Media and Politics Reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Mark Di Stefano at mark.distefano@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.

Promoted