Greens senator apologises over 'disgusting' slur directed at Liberal colleague

Senator Lidia Thorpe has apologised "unreservedly" to a Liberal senator after telling her "at least I keep my legs shut" in the Senate.

Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe.

Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe. Source: AAP

Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe has apologised for telling a Liberal senator that "at least I keep my legs shut" during a fiery debate in the Senate.

"Last night I interjected in the Senate using inappropriate language. I regret doing that - and immediately retracted my comments and apologised unreservedly to the Senator," Senator Thorpe said in a statement on Thursday. 

She had directed the comment to Liberal Senator Hollie Hughes in the chamber on Wednesday night, leading to an outcry from Coalition benches.

Ms Hughes says she was dumbfounded and took the comments as a shot at her son who has autism, and not as a "slut-shaming" slur.

Liberal Senator Hollie Hughes.
Liberal Senator Hollie Hughes. Source: AAP

But Senator Thorpe insisted that her comments were not suggestive of Senator Hughes' son. 

"I thoroughly reject any suggestion that I directly or indirectly referenced Senator Hughes’ family," she said.

"That characterisation of my interjection is completely untrue, and more importantly, harmful to every disabled person."

Senator Hughes had called the comments in Question Time a disgrace, which came after the Greens senator had interjected an answer about the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and stormed out in protest at Indigenous deaths in custody.

"Have a go at me all you want to, I could not care less," Ms Hughes told Sky News on Thursday.

"But when someone invokes someone's child, I think they have crossed a line."

"Every single person that spoke to me that night in the Senate, every one of my colleagues that heard it took the inference she was referring to my autistic son, that if I had kept my legs shut, I wouldn’t have a child with a disability."

Senator Lidia Thorpe has taken personal leave from parliament since she made the comments.

Ms Hughes also expressed her disappointment the comments were made a day after a landmark review into the workplace culture of Parliament House was handed down.

"I hope people in this place take stock over the Christmas break," she said.

"Senator Thorpe needs to think about how she engages with senators."

The review, conducted by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins, detailed a leadership deficit, where disrespectful behaviour "comes from the top".

It also revealed some of the worst bullying was committed by women against other women.

Liberal Senator Ben Small called out Senator Thorpe's interjection on the Senate floor, saying the "outrageous" comment ranked at the top of "the scheme of disgusting statements made in this chamber".

Ms Thorpe initially withdrew the comment, saying: "I just got a view of something over there that disturbed me".

The senator then returned to apologise to Senator Hughes and unreservedly take back her comments.

The comments also came a day after Liberal Senator David Van was accused of making dog noises towards another female parliamentarian.

Liberal Senator Amanda Stoker said it was important to get the culture right within Parliament House.

"It is important we all lead from the top," she told Sky News.

"[Senator Hughes] is a tough nut, she will be OK. It is personal and it is not nice. At least Senator Thorpe has apologised."

Ms Thorpe's office was contacted for comment.

3 min read
Published 2 December 2021 at 2:33pm
Source: AAP,SBS