The deputy prime minister’s office has confirmed there was “an incident” at the Nationals Christmas drinks after it was reported senator Sam McMahon allegedly took several “swings” at the party’s federal director, Jonathan Hawkes.
Sky News reported that McMahon allegedly attempted to punch Hawkes, taking three or four swings at him at a Canberra pub on Thursday evening at the event attended by Nationals MPs and staffers.
A spokesperson for Barnaby Joyce told Guardian Australia: “The deputy prime minister has been advised there was an incident at the Christmas party on Thursday night.”
“A contrite apology has been given and accepted,” the spokesperson said. “Both parties have explicitly said they want this to be the end of the issue and, out of respect for them, this will be adhered to by our office.”
One Nationals MP told Guardian Australia the behaviour was “not conduct becoming of a member of parliament” but “the two have made up and the leader is happy with that”.
In June, McMahon denied allegations she was drunk in the Senate. At the time, a spokesperson said she was “unwell” and that unnamed sources claiming she was drunk were attempting to “dislodge senator McMahon before preselection”.
Days later, Country Liberal and Alice Springs deputy mayor, Jacinta Price, defeated McMahon in a preselection battle for the top of the Senate ticket, likely guaranteeing Price a seat at the next election.
McMahon voted for Joyce in the June leadership spill in which he replaced Michael McCormack as Nationals leader. Joyce has publicly credited her for advocating in government to ensure the Northern Territory retains two lower house seats.
On 22 November, McMahon was one of five Coalition senators to cross the floor and vote for a One Nation bill banning vaccine mandates – contradicting the Morrison government’s aged care vaccine mandate and state government public health orders.
In the final sitting fortnight, McMahon threatened – but did not carry out the threat – to withhold her vote unless her bill to allow the territories to legislate on euthanasia was debated.
Guardian Australia has contacted McMahon and Hawkes for comment.