Sexual harassment claims, grappling and filibustering test voters’ patience
'Australian politics has experienced one of the most bizarre days in recent memory, with allegations of sexual harassment levelled at members of parliament, a physical altercation that left a senator in bandages, that same senator admitting he daubed blood on the door of another politician’s office, and a question time so long it broke records.
The extraordinary events left political commentators open-mouthed and came as tensions rose in Canberra ahead of a federal election expected in May.
Many of the day’s antics coalesced around Brian Burston, a senator who formerly belonged to the One Nation party, led by the controversial far-right Pauline Hanson.
On Tuesday, Hanson accused an unnamed senator – later revealed to be Burston – of “serious sexual harassment”.
Guardian Australia has seen a complaint of sexual harassment made against Burston late last year, as part of a settled unfair dismissal claim. The complaint alleges Burston approached a staff member who was upset. She said he asked whether he could “fuck me to make things better”.
A spokeswoman for Burston denied the claims, saying a 70-year-old man would not use the word “fuck”. Burston’s wife, Ros, gave a similar explanation, saying: “My husband never says fuck.”
Not content with denying the allegations, Burston responded by alleging he himself was the victim of sexual harassment by Hanson, saying she ran her hands up his back during a rendition of the national anthem, claims she rubbished as laughable.
But the counter-claims were not the end of the matter. Later, Burston and one of Hanson’s advisers, James Ashby, got into an altercation at Parliament House.
Video recordings show the pair grappling, with Burston saying he was “ambushed” by Ashby.'
Read more: Blood on the door: 24 hours of chaos in Australian politics