During a debate a month ago in Parliament over a ban on the use of pepper spray, Senator David Leyonhjelm had heckled Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, telling her to “stop shagging men”.
Comments made in the chamber are subject to legal protections but Leyonhjelm repeated the remark, using the same term, in subsequent media appearances.
Responding in a series of emotional interviews in the days that followed, Hanson-Young accused Leyonhjelm of “slut shaming” and bullying, gaining sympathy among the public in a country where strict defamation laws have stymied the kind of harassment claims that have galvanised the #MeToo movement elsewhere in the world.
“I’m calling this out because it is wrong. No woman, whether she be working behind a bar, in an office or in the Parliament, deserves to be treated this way, and it needs to stop,” said Hanson-Young.
Court documents filed by her lawyers on Wednesday allege Leyonhjelm defamed her and implied she was a hypocrite for having sexual relations with men while also criticising them in the parliamentary debate.
They also allege Leyonhjelm accused Hanson-Young of hating men.
The suit was the first by a sitting politician against another in Australia.
Leyonhjelm, a libertarian Liberal Democrats senator, said his legal advisers found her case was without merit and that he “will be defending these claims strenuously”. - Reuters