Disgraced celebrity gardener Don Burke told Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce he would reveal to the media his criticisms of an embattled government agency unless the Coalition followed through on reforms of the organisation.
Documents released by the Senate on Wednesday show Mr Burke became increasingly frustrated as Mr Joyce apparently failed to respond to requests for information about an advisory board for the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority, amid its controversial relocation to Mr Joyce's electorate of New England.
But on Wednesday Mr Burke denied his relationship with Mr Joyce was ever strained by the matter, saying he "adored" the Nationals leader.
Mr Burke, who faced a series of allegations he indecently assaulted, sexually harassed and bullied female employees and guests during his time presenting Burke's Backyard, claimed in a June letter that he publicly defended Mr Joyce against criticism of the authority's forced move to Armidale in northern NSW, and would be forced to go public if he did not hear back about the structure of a proposed five-person advisory body by July this year.
The former TV host was instrumental in setting up the authority, known originally as the National Registration Authority, and suggested improvements to Mr Joyce in late 2016.
Earlier this year, Mr Burke said he was frustrated he had not heard back from Mr Joyce or his department about progress of reforms, despite attracting criticism over his public support for the controversial government decision.
"While I strongly want to support you, I really need to hear from you by the end of July, otherwise my conscience will force me to discuss this entire matter in the media the next time that I am contacted by them," he wrote.
"I would regard it as my public responsibility to point out the shortcomings of the APVMA and my inability to have the reinstatement of an independent board but it is not something I want to do."
He said he supported Mr Joyce "based on the fact that I trusted you as a savvy minister who would not be easily 'Yes Ministered' by those around him."
Mr Joyce responded on July 24, acknowledging Mr Burke as a former authority board member and outlining government legislation, suggesting Mr Burke contact his senior adviser in future.
Mr Burke told Fairfax Media on Wednesday that when Mr Joyce asked him to publicly support the authority's move to Armidale in November 2016, the celebrity said this would depend on the government re-establishing an external advisory board.
However, he said while he told Mr Joyce he would also like to serve on that board if the government decided to appoint him, it would have been wrong to make his public support for the authority contingent on receiving the position.
"I thought that would've been arrogant and bumptious," he said.
Mr Burke denied there was tension and said he never doubted Mr Joyce would follow through by re-establishing the board, which he believed was needed to make the authority less risk averse in taking toxic chemicals off the market.
He described Mr Joyce as a "good friend".
"He is a family man, he is a good man to deal with," Mr Burke said. "I adore the man. Him and [former Labor minister] Simon Crean are two of the most decent people in politics."
Mr Burke said he wrote the letters to make sure the government would set up the board, raising the issue to "ride it home".
"I'm impatient, but remember, I was pressing for more than 10 years for the NRA to get started and was knocked back by everybody.
"If you just sit back and do nothing, nothing happens."
Earlier this month, the Senate voted to require Mr Joyce to provide documents about a video he filmed with Mr Burke discussing the authority. It was later deleted from Facebook.
In the December 2016 video, Mr Burke said of the authority: "This is my baby, it took up so much of my life".
He told Fairfax Media at the time allegations of pork barreling by Mr Joyce were wrong, describing the forced move as for the agency's own good.
"It's true that in moving it into his electorate, of course there's gains for Barnaby," Mr Burke said. "It can be corruption, but not in this case."
Mr Joyce has been contacted for comment.
At the height of national media reports about Mr Burke's treatment of women, Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young questioned why the video had been deleted.
Senator Hanson-Young said Mr Joyce was yet to release documents about the video, a matter she planned to pursue.
"Barnaby Joyce has to explain the extent of the special relationship between him and Don Burke and what he did to give Mr Burke the impression that he should not only be kept in the loop on the relocation of the authority, but is also entitled to be part of the relocation consultation process and board appointments, to the point that he made threats to discredit the process in the media.
"The Deputy Prime Minister has not clarified what costs were incurred in relation to Don Burke's involvement; monetary or otherwise," she said.