The high court has rejected former senator David Leyonhjelm’s application to appeal Senator Sarah Hanson-Young’s defamation win against him, marking the end of a three-year legal battle.
The decision comes three years after the Leyonhjelm made comments in the Senate about Senator Hanson-Young, that the court described as “crass, offensive and obviously sexist”.
Previously, Hanson-Young was awarded $120,000 in damages and costs after Leyonhjelm said she should “stop shagging men”.
“At the time all I wanted was an apology but instead he continued to attack me,” Hanson-Young said in a statement on Thursday following the ruling.
“The financial risk to me was real but it was important for me to bring these proceedings on behalf of all women who deserve to be safe and respected in our workplaces, in our schools and in our communities.”
The High Court has rejected David Leyonhjelm’s application to appeal against my successful defamation judgment against him.— 💚🌏 Sarah Hanson-Young (@sarahinthesen8) June 17, 2021
After 3 difficult years this is finally over. Mr Leyonhjelm tried to avoid accountability for his behaviour at every turn. Today the Court decided ‘Enough!’
Senator Hanson-Young said the case has shown that calling out abuse and harassment is important to hold perpetrators to account.
“It is hard and difficult to do, but by supporting the women who dare to speak up, we are supporting the rights of women and girls to be respected everywhere.”
Senator Hanson-Young also said the federal court’s decision on parliamentary privilege “sends a strong message to parliamentarians that they are not above the law.”
Plan International Australia and the Working Women’s Centre South Australia will receive the damages paid by Leyonhjelm.
Hayley Cull, Plan International Australia’s director of advocacy and community engagement, said the girls’ charity will use the funds to continue to fight for girls’ equality.
“As we know from our recent She Can Lead and We Can Lead reports, out of 507 Australian girls aged 18-25 surveyed earlier this year, 73% do not believe women are treated equally to men in politics, rising to almost 78% among women aged 22 to 25,” Cull said.
According to the charity, Hanson-Young’s win sends an incredibly powerful message to all Australian girls and women aspiring to enter politics that sexism and misogyny will not be tolerated.
“In response, Plan International Australia’s youth activists have developed a set of recommendations on how to improve the culture in parliament, and are calling on Australians to sign this petition to help clean up the toxic culture in our nation’s parliament,” Cull said.
“We acknowledge and thank Senator Hanson-Young for her courageous work and look forward to working with her in future towards creating a more equal and diverse parliament and country.”