- NSW crossbench senator David Leyonhjelm is facing legal action from Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young over media comments he made about her sex life.
- Leyonhjelm has refused to apologise, but today issued a series of conditions for Hanson-Young to fulfil before he’s prepared to express any regret.
- Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition leader Bill Shorten are among several leading politicians who say his remarks were offensive and he should say sorry.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says NSW crossbench senator David Leyonhjelm should have apologised and withdrawn “offensive remarks” he made to Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young a debate on violence against women in the Senate last week.
“It’s not too late for him to withdraw and apologise. It’s never too late, frankly,” the PM said.
“That type of language has no place in parliament and it shouldn’t have a place in any workplace. We have to treat each other with respect.”
Asked if there was “a problem with sexism and slander in the Chamber during debate” by a journalist, the PM said he “cannot recall remarks like that being uttered in Parliament before”.
“I’ve never heard language like that before in the Chamber,” he said.
Turnbull said disrespect to women was a precursor to violence against them.
“We need to have respectful workplaces where we treat each other with respect, where we disagree, we disagree in respectful language, and that is why as far as Senator Leyonhjelm is concerned, he should not have made those remarks, they were offensive, he should have withdrawn them and he should have apologised for them,” he said.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten agreed with the Prime Minister that the comments were “seriously offensive” and without Lyonhjelm offering an apology “every day that goes on he adds hurt to injury”.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and former PM Tony Abbott are also among those who’ve lined up to condemn the crossbench senator.
Abbott’s former chief-of-staff, Peta Credlin, delivered her own blistering condemnation on Sky News last night, defending Hanson-Young while saying she disagreed completely with her politics, adding that she had experienced similar treatment in Canberra.
It's never about your brain or what you believe, but far more personal criticisms designed to wound. Blokes like Lleyonhelm expect you to cower, to pull back, to quit. Which is all the more reason why we shouldn't – in politics or any other area of life.#Credlin pic.twitter.com/I1YGzTGsF9
— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) July 2, 2018
During Senate debate last week, Leyonhjelm interjected that Hanson-Young “should stop shagging men” and when she subsequently confronted him about the comment, he told her to “f..k off”.
He refused to apologise or withdraw, despite a request from Senate president Scott Ryan, and then made two media appearances on Sunday in which he doubled down on the comments, including on Sky News, which subsequently apologised for the comments.
The hosts of Outsiders on Sky News, Rowan Dean and Ross Cameron, also apologised on air last night.
— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) July 2, 2018
Hanson-Young has instructed her lawyers to investigate a potential defamation against Leyonhjelm for his comments in the media and called on him to resign from parliament.
Leyonhjelm, Sky News and Melbourne radio station 3AW have all received preliminary letters from Hanson-Young’s lawyers about the defamatory nature of his comments.
On ABC TV’s 7.30 program last night, Leyonhjelm attempted to offer a ‘she started it first’ defence, claiming that Hanson-Young had said during debate that all men are evil and rapists, although he admitted he could not recall what she actually said, but argued that was the implication.
“Arguing on the one hand that all men are evil, the enemy, rapists, sexual predators, and on the other hand having normal relationships with men, obviously is contradictory, and I can call it out,” he said.
The Greens senator says Leyonhjelm’s counter-claim is a lie and maintains she said nothing that carried those implications. The interjection that sparked his response is believed to have been that “men should stop raping women”.
Leyonhjelm’s logic was “the implication being all men are rapists”.
On ABC Radio today, Hanson-Young said Leyonhjelm was attempted to intimidate and bully, in suggesting “that I am sexually promiscuous”.
She accused him of “slut shaming” her, adding that he’d wrongly named a man as having had a sexual relationship with her when it was untrue.
“It’s offensive, it’s inflammatory, and he has shown over and over again that he’s unfit to be in the parliament,” she said.
In The Australian today, Leyonhjelm said he was prepared to “forgive her for her previous comments” and apologise for his comments on the condition that she publicly state that “she no longer believes” all men are collectively responsible for violence against women.
His list of demands for an apology also include Hanson-Young changing her views from the debate that sparked the current imbroglio, and agree that women should carry pepper spray to protect themselves.
He also wants her to declare that people are personally responsible for their actions “and cannot blame others”.
Last night on ABC TV’s QandA program, Labor’s health spokesperson Catherine King described Leyonhjelm as a “complete and utter dick”.
The audience applauded.
Fellow panelist and Liberal MP Sarah Henderson, who’s dealt extensively with the issue of violence against women, rebuked King for the comment, but added that it was “a terrible thing [Leyonhjelm] said”.
“It did not do him any good in terms of the dignity he should hold as a member of parliament,” she said.
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