Crossbench Senator David Leyonhjelm has seven days to back down from his refusal to apologise for comments he made about Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young’s sex life or she will sue him for defamation.
The week-long saga looks set to head to court in a rare instance of two politicians suing each other with an unrepentant Leyonhjelm saying he won’t apologise.
A four-page letter sent to the NSW senator on Wednesday by Hanson-Young’s lawyer, Rebekah Giles of Sydney-based Kennedys, outlines six instances over five days in which Leyonhjelm made comments about the South Australian Greens senator which contained potentially defamatory imputations.
They include two instances on Sky News — the Paul Murray Live program on June 28, and then Outsiders on July 1 — Melbourne radio station 3AW, ABC TV’s 730, and Channel Ten’s The Project, as well as a June 28 media statement from Leyonhjelm republished on Facebook.
Hanson-Young is seeking an apology and financial compensation.
The dispute began when Leyonhjelm interjected that Hanson-Young should “stop shagging men” during Senate debate last week. He subsequently went on Sky News and said rumours about his senate colleague were “well known”.
The comments have been widely condemned by all sides of politics, with both Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition leader Bill Shorten among those calling on Leyonhjelm to apologise.
He has refused and labelled Turnbull a “pussy” in response.
The letter from Kennedys says his comments carry the imputations that Hanson-Young is a misandrist and “hates men”, and is a hypocrite because she “is a slut, shagging men indiscriminately” and “dishonestly promotes the view for her own political gain that men are born guilty of hating women”.
It says the imputations are false and defamatory and have caused Hanson-Young “substantial hurt, distress and embarrassment”.
The damage to her reputation was aggravated by the repeated comments made in the media, “in order to hold her up to shame and public disgrace”.
It alleges his actions were the result of “hatred of Ms Hanson-Young” and malicious in repeating them for “self-seeking publicity and self-aggrandisement”.
Hanson-Young is seeking an unreserved apology in terms she agrees to, payment of her legal costs and compensation at a level she is satisfied with, all within a week, or she will launch legal action.
Her lawyer, Rebekah Giles, told Business Insider Leyonhjelm had not responded to this letter or earlier correspondence.
She said it was “a most unusual case, as there was a virtual smorgasbord of defamatory remarks our client could complain about, endlessly repeated by Senator Leyonhjelm over the course of the last few days”.
She believes Hanson-Young’s case “is very strong” and the aggravation will increase any damages payout if the comments are found to be defamatory”.
“He obviously holds himself out to be this heroic defender of free speech, but this case has nothing to do with freedom of speech,” Giles said.
“His behaviour this week has betrayed his complete lack of understanding of the law. The law does not extend to destroying someone’s character by making false and disgusting claims about their sexual virtue.
“We hope he has the good sense to retain lawyers to represent him as soon as possible.”
A spokesperson for Leyonhjelm’s office confirmed to Business Insider that the senator will not be making an apology and will issue a statement later today.
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