“You should stop shagging men, Sarah,” Senator David Leyonhjelm helpfully advised his colleague Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young across the chamber on Thursday.
Is there a more inspiring orator in Canberra? Is there a man in the nation’s capital as cognisant of the spotlight being fixed on the respectful treatment of women in the workplace right now?
The fact Leyonhjelm’s charming suggestion was made during a motion addressing violence against women confirms his sensitivity is tremendous. Ladies and gentlemen, as far as “un-woke” men go, I reckon we have a winner. (He can take his place on the individual podium opposite the corporate title-holder, Billabong.)
“After the motion was complete, I walked over to the Senator and confronted him directly,” Hanson-Young told the Senate afterwards. “I asked whether I had heard him correctly. He confirmed that he had yelled ‘you should stop shagging men, Sarah’. Shocked, I told him he was a creep, and he told me to ‘f— off’.”
Is there no end to this man’s capacity for an incisive barb? Frankly, the wit and intellect required to resort to passing public judgment on a female co-worker’s sex life is extraordinary.
It demonstrates wit and intellect of a magnitude we can only hope our elected representatives might enjoy.
It also displays courage: far from being reluctant to inadvertently get caught up in the #MeToo web like some men Leyonhjelm is fearless in pursuit of it.
“There won’t be any backing off or apologising,” he bravely declared on Sky News.
He’s not interested in playing around the edges: nothing less than explicit sexism and blatant disrespect will do.
If women like Sarah Hanson-Young think they ought to be able to do turn up to work and do their job free from any harassment on the basis of their gender or their sex life they are sorely mistaken.
With ‘leaders’ like David Leyonjhelm in our midst slut-shaming – at the heart of his remark to Sarah Hason-Young – will prevail. Sure, it’s an insult of last resort. It’s cheap, demeaning and disgraceful but it’s all they have. Expecting anything else from individuals of this ilk is madness.
The good news is that Leyonhjelm is about as far from a sure thing as elected representatives go.
Back in 2013, the Liberal Democrats, headed by Leyonhjelm, got very lucky when it drew first place in the 45 columns on the NSW ballot paper. As Tim Colebatch wrote in The Age at the time:
“Hundreds of thousands of voters saw the size of the ballot paper, saw the word ”Liberal” in the first box, and just put a 1 against it. The LDP won 434,002 votes, or 9.5 per cent – 50 times the vote it won in 2007 before it adopted the name ”Liberal Democrats”.
Colebatch said Leyonhjelm is “probably the only senator elected because people mistook his party for another”.
Sure it’s of cold comfort given he is there right now but I’m hopeful sanity will prevail next time around. The Senate need not be home to Leyonhjelm forever. Clucthing at straws? You bet I am. The alternative is accepting that ‘leaders’ can behave like Leyonhjelm without consequence and frankly I’m unwilling to take that.