For weeks Sarah Hanson-Young and David Leyonhjelm have fired shots back and forth at each other after she called out the New South Wales representative in the Senate over derogatory comments he is said to have made about her sex life.
Now the Greens Senator has made good on her threat to sue Senator Leyonhjelm for defamation, as she confirmed on Thursday that her lawyers have filed proceedings in the Federal Court.
The Senator for South Australia claims statements made by Leyonhjelm, including telling her to “stop shagging men”, have done considerable harm to her and her family.
“I’m calling this out because it is wrong. No woman, whether she be working behind a bar, in an office or in the Parliament, deserves to be treated this way, and it needs to stop,” Hanson-Young said in a statement to Starts at 60.
“The defamatory statements Senator Leyonhjelm made and continues to make are an attack on my character, and have done considerable harm to me and my family. It was always my preference that Senator Leyonhjelm apologise and acknowledge how hurtful, defamatory and damaging his comments were, however he refuses to do so.”
The Liberal Democrats criticised the suit which they believe “has no merit” and confirmed that Leyonhjelm will strenuously oppose it in the Federal Court, seeking costs himself.
The disagreement between the rival senators began on June 28, when Hanson-Young made a speech in the chamber and slammed “creep” Leyonhjelm for sexist comments he allegedly made to her.
She said: “Earlier today, during the motion relating to violence against women, Senator Leyonhjelm yelled an offensive and sexist slur at me from across the chamber. After the vote on the motion was complete, I walked over to the senator and confronted him directly.
“I asked whether I had heard him correctly. He confirmed that he had yelled, ‘You should stop shagging men, Sarah.’ Shocked, I told him that he was a creep. His reply was to tell me to ‘f… off’. I informed the leader of the Greens, and he has raised it with both Senator Leyonhjelm and the President.
“I am disappointed that the senator has refused to apologise for this offensive and sexist slur, and I call on him to formally withdraw and apologise directly.”
However the 66-year-old pollie refused to apologise and, during an interview on Sky News, confirmed there was “no chance” of him backing down and saying sorry. He said: “Sarah called out words to the effect of, ‘yeah they should stop raping women’.
“So I responded to her, she didn’t like my response. When the division was over, she came over to me and called me a creep. I told her to go and make love in another place and she decided that was all really bad. There won’t be any backing of or apologising.”
Hanson-Young confirmed that if her suit is successful she will donate all damages to two charities, Plan International and the Working Women’s Centre SA, while her lawsuit is being funded by cash raised through a crowdfunding campaign.
Last month author Jane Caro and Emeritus Professor Simon Chapman AO launched a GoFundMe page in support of the Senator which has so far raised more than $60,000.
Leyonhjelm then retaliated by launching his own campaign and asked Liberal Democrat voters for donations to fund a “war chest against the Greens”. So far his campaign has raked in little over $27,000.