Minister for Jobs Michaelia Cash has retracted comments she made today in the Senate about Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s female staffers. Cash heatedly responded to a question from Labor Senator Doug Cameron about her own newly appointed chief of staff with a bizarrely gendered rant:
"If you want to start discussing staff matters, be very, very careful. Because I'm happy to sit here and name every young woman in Mr Shorten's office over which rumours in this place abound," Cash told Cameron.
"Do you want to start naming them and for Mr Shorten to come out and deny any of the rumours that have been circulating in this building now for many, many years. It's a dangerous path to go down."
In response, Cameron told Cash to ”take a chill pill".
Shortly afterwards, Labor Senator Penny Wong demanded that Cash issue a retraction, deeming her comments to be “sexist” and “outrageous slurs”. Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek added that they were “ghastly, sexist and a 1950s style throwback.”
After standing her ground for a few minutes, Cash eventually gave in.
"If anyone has been offended by my remarks, I withdraw,” she said.
It’s been a more awkward sitting period than normal for Parliament House, with Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce stepping down from his position on Monday after it emerged he had arranged a high-paying government service job for his pregnant mistress.
Tensions appear to be running high.