Senator David Leyonhjelm in the Senate Question Time in the Senate Chamber, Parliament House in Canberra. Picture Kym Smith
Senator David Leyonhjelm in the Senate Question Time in the Senate Chamber, Parliament House in Canberra. Picture Kym Smith

‘Thin-skinned’ pollie’s worst slurs

OPINION

TONY Abbott calls him "smug", and among the barbs aimed at Senator David Leyonhjelm that's at the milder end of the spectrum.

Thin-skinned and prone to bluster, the Liberal Democrat entered Parliament after the 2013 election on a mission to shatter political correctness, put the "Nanny State" into retirement, and to promote himself.

His success rate has been limited, despite the major parties attempting to give his demands - sometime worthy, often lacking justification - a chance. And he has been accused of not repaying the courtesies.

Last week there was broad co-operation among the parties to change the Senate schedule to find time for Senator Leyonhjelm's Territory Rights (Dying with Dignity) Bill. It was an exercise in good will for him.

The next day he argued for law changes to allow women to carry mace and tasers to fend off stackers, and was rejected.

It was in his subsequent bad mood that Senator Leyonhjelm called out abuse aimed at Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.

When she complained directly to him, he told her to "f**k off".

It's a term he uses often, and often to women.

In 2016 two women from The Chaser confronted Senator Leyonhjelm over his claim that people who objected to off-colour slogans on rental camper vans had no sense of humour.

They produced a car featuring his name in off-colour slogans and his humour deserted him: "Are you familiar with the term 'f**k off'?" he told the women.

David Leyonhjelm tells female presenters to 'f**k off' on The Chaser. Picture: ABC
David Leyonhjelm tells female presenters to 'f**k off' on The Chaser. Picture: ABC

This from the candidate whose campaign promise was: "We should be able to say what we think without getting into strife because some choose to take offence."

His choice to be offended was clear.

Senator Leyonhjelm today took to name-calling, directing his latest slur at Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. According to The Australian, Senator Leyonhjelm hit back at Mr Turnbull's condemnation of his comments towards Senator Hanson-Young, saying: "Malcolm should stop being such a pussy."

There have been more serious occasions when the subject has potentially been deadly.

Senator Leyonhjelm has been a champion of lifting the ban on the importation of the Adler lever-action shotgun.

In late 2016 he attempted to parlay his support for the revival of the Australian Building and Construction Commission in exchange for imports of the rapid-fire weapon.

He was rebuffed by all parties.

Senator Leyonhjelm's triumph was to have been a committee aimed at undoing the "Nanny State" regulations from compulsory helmets by cyclists to warnings on cigarette packets.

It was going to be Libertarian Lollapalooza with these rules eventually dropping to extinction.

And it was a soapbox for the man himself.

His office was excited enough to suggested the theme song for the inquiry was Robyn's Don't F***ing Tell Me What to Do.

"It's just the start," he said at the time. But it wasn't.

The committee folded at the 2016 election and when Parliament resumed the Senate decided it wasn't worth reviving. It had achieved little except as a soapbox for David Leyonhjelm. And taxpayers were sent the bill.

He now chairs a committee on "red tape" which is scheduled to report in December.

He also has strong views on currency. The Senator opposed a December 2016 bid to eliminate the $100 bill. The government said it aided tax avoidance through cash payments in the black economy.

"The only people who are distressed by the cash economy are the government and the public servants who want to spend taxes," Senator Leyonhjelm said.

"The incentives for a cash economy would be a lot reduced if taxes were a lot lower. It's a reaction to the level of taxes we pay."

He has backed government tax cuts. In fact, in an overwhelming majority of divisions he sides with the government.

 

David Leyonhjelm has partnered with Mark Latham, who is expected to stand for the Liberal Democrats next Senate election. Picture: Hollie Adams/The Australian
David Leyonhjelm has partnered with Mark Latham, who is expected to stand for the Liberal Democrats next Senate election. Picture: Hollie Adams/The Australian

Senator Leyonhjelm doesn't mind being talked about and has partnered with a like-minded political operator, former Labor leader Mark Latham, who is expected to stand for the Liberal Democrats next Senate election.

The Senator started his political activism with Young Labor supporting Gough Whitlam. He moved to the Liberals but quit when John Howard tightened gun laws.

He subsequently shifted among versions of the Shooters Party before settling for the Liberal Democrats.

Increasing his profile is vital to his electoral survival.

Analysts contend his 2013 victory was in part produced by the Liberal Democrats gaining the top position on the huge Senate ballot paper. That is, he won the donkey vote and that of people who thought he was from the Liberal Party.

His and Mr Latham's chances next election could be influenced, or even enhanced, by the current controversy. He might be shunned by mainstream voters, but Senator Leyonhjelm will be playing to the fringes.

 

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has accused Senator Leyonhjelm of ‘slut-shaming’ and is considering legal action.
Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has accused Senator Leyonhjelm of ‘slut-shaming’ and is considering legal action.

Sarah Hanson-Young has accused him of "slut-shaming" and making false claims about her personal life.

He argues Senator Hanson-Young is guilty of misandry - contempt for males - and has claimed she is sexually promiscuous.

His attempt at accusing Senator Hanson-Young of hypocrisy - of hating men but sleeping with them - might be applauded within the outliers who Senator Leyonhjelm has cultivated, a particularly masculine group.

And a clutch of social media comments are cheering him on and attacking the Greens Senator.

But it's a schoolboy argument which might be counted as clever among Year 10 debaters but wouldn't survive Year 12.

This election, David Leyonhjelm might be exposed as just the occupant of a flimsy soapbox.



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