• File image of NT Attorney-General Natasha Fyles speaking to the media. (AAP)Source: AAP
John Elferink’s remark that he was ‘tempted to give’ a female parliamentarian a slap is at the centre of a political maelstrom. But the Territory’s Treasurer, David Tollner, has come out saying 'toughen up, princess.'
By
NITV

17 Sep 2015 - 7:55 PM  UPDATED 17 Sep 2015 - 7:55 PM

Nine female MLAs are calling for the Attorney-General of the Northern Territory to be sacked following a parliamentary debate on Wednesday night in which he said he was "tempted to give [a female parliamentarian] a slap right now."

The government on Thursday narrowly defeated a censure motion following calls for the resignation of Attorney-General John Elferink after he said of Labor MP Natasha Fyles on Wednesday night, "I'm really tempted to give her a slap right now, figuratively speaking".

On Thursday morning he was defiant, refusing to apologise "for a metaphor".  Mr Elferink said the phrase was a figure of speech of the type regularly bandied about in parliament.

But he then had a change of heart and apologised unreservedly when parliament resumed.

"I'm not proud of the comment I made yesterday - it was never intended in any way to be seen as any form of physical threat," he said.

But that was not enough for the NT's female parliamentarians, all of whom - barring two Country Liberals members - demanded that he resign.

"I was truly shocked to see his face and the way he was yelling at me"

Deputy Labor leader Lynne Walker said his words were violent, intimidating and aggressive, as were his actions in thumping the desk and shouting at her during a heated debate.

"His display was appalling, and I was truly shocked to see his face and the way he was yelling at me," she said.

Ms Fyles said she felt bullied in the workplace.

"He's perpetuating a culture that it's OK to be aggressive towards a woman who frustrates you, who questions you"

"He's perpetuating a culture that it's OK to be aggressive towards a woman who frustrates you, who questions you," she said.

"We're no shrinking violets ... we're certainly up for robust debate, feisty debate, don't get me wrong. But when we saw the behaviour we saw yesterday, it's unacceptable."

Deputy Chief Minister Willem Westra van Holthe accused Labor of political opportunism and "feigned indignation" in beating up the issue, while Government whip Lia Finocchiaro accused the Labor women of using domestic violence for political gain.

Government whip Lia Finocchiaro accused the Labor women of using domestic violence for political gain.

"Coming into this house as a woman and claiming you can't take what you so readily give is hypocritical and cries wolf," she said.

Independents Alison Anderson and Robyn Lambley said they both believed Mr Elferink was a good man who meant well, but that they backed the motion in order to draw attention to slipping parliamentary standards.

The Territory’s Treasurer, David Tollner, has responded to loud criticisms of the comments by saying “toughen up, princess" and that politics is a "bloodless war."

"I certainly wouldn't have (apologised), I would have said ‘toughen up, princess, this is politics'," he said.