Australia

A ‘private urination incident’ and a ‘naughty little girl’ outburst: Senate estimates’ surprising moments

Highlights
  • A government agency will face further questions from a Greens senator over an alleged “public urination incident”.
  • Meanwhile, Labor senator Glenn Sterle has apologised for comments he made to the Nationals’ Bridget McKenzie.
  • He called the Nationals senator a “naughty little girl” during a heated exchange in a hearing.
A senior staff member of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority resigned after allegations of a “private urination incident”.
Under questioning about sexual harassment at the authority, chief executive Lisa Croft was asked at a Senate estimates hearing if she had been aware that a male senior staff member had allegedly urinated on colleagues at a work function.
Ms Croft said she had been made aware of a private urination matter.
“I am aware of an incident that occurred in a private capacity, not at a work function,” she said on Tuesday.
“Individuals raised the matter with me directly.”
The authority, which is the Australian government regulator of agricultural and veterinary chemical products, has its headquarters at Armidale in NSW.

Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson told the hearing he was aware of potentially three complaints from female staff members about the alleged incident.

Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority chief executive Lisa Croft said a senior staff member of the government authority resigned after allegations of a “private urination incident”. Source: Supplied

Ms Croft told the hearing that while the people directly involved had wanted her to be aware of the matter, there was no official complaint made.

“I’m not aware of any complaints from those staff members in relation to a sexual harassment matter,” she said.
Ms Croft said after discussions with the organisation’s human resources team, the staff member resigned from their position.
“Discussions were had in terms of what may be able to be done in relation to the matter, and the staff member resigned very soon after that,” she told the hearing.
Ms Croft said she did not speak directly to the executive staff member.
Senator Whish-Wilson said he would be filing further questions to the authority.
Agriculture Minister Murray Watt described the questions as “concerning”.

“Certainly it’s the first time I’ve heard about any of them, and I’ll be seeking an urgent briefing from my department about it,” he said.

Labor Senator apologies for ‘naughty little girl’ outburst

Earlier, Labor senator Glenn Sterle apologised for calling the Nationals’ Bridget McKenzie a “naughty little girl” during a heated exchange.
A frustrated Senator Sterle levelled the comment against Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie after a regional Senate inquiry grew rowdy.
“Senator McKenzie, do you always have to have the last word … like a naughty little girl,” Senator Sterle said.

“Can you just be quiet while somebody else finishes?”

A man rests his chin in the palm of his hand

Labor Senator Glenn Sterle during the Senate Estimates at Parliament House in Canberra on Tuesday, 8 November 2022. Source: AAP / Lukas Coch

Senator Sterle, who chairs the regional and rural affairs committee, withdrew the comment following pressure from the Greens and Nationals after initially refusing.

“I want to apologise for my outburst under pressure; there is no excuse for the language that I used,” he told the committee.
“I hope you will accept my apology. That was unlike me, but I’m not dodging it, it was out of order.”
Deputy Liberal leader Sussan Ley said the comment needed to be called out.
“In the same week Labor used the passing of laws recommended by the Respect at Work report to call for more respect for women, one of their senators called one of my colleagues a naughty little girl,” she said.
“Is this the respectful workplace Anthony Albanese promised us?”
“It’s unacceptable and needs to be called out.”
Women’s Minister Katy Gallagher condemned the comments.
“Senator Sterle’s comments were unacceptable and he’s done the right thing by publicly apologising to Senator McKenzie,” she told news agency AAP.

The prime minister and attorney-general used the passing of workplace laws aimed at reducing sexual harassment on Monday to call for more respect towards women.

File source

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