17 May 2012

Twitter complaint slips into Aust. political row

9:33 pm on 17 May 2012

An Australian political worker who launched a sexual harassment case against the Australian speaker, Peter Slipper, has now made a formal complaint about comments made by two senators.

James Ashby's lawyers have lodged a formal complaint with the Human Rights Commission over remarks by Bob Carr and Barnaby Joyce on Twitter and to the media.

Mr Ashby has already launched a civil claim under the Fair Work Act against the Commonwealth and Mr Slipper.

Mr Carr has denied that his comments victimise Mr Ashby.

Mr Slipper also denies any wrongdoing and has stepped aside as Speaker of the Federal Parliament to defend himself.

Mr Ashby's latest complaint cites a tweet from Senator Carr on May 5 which said: "This Ashby seems more rehearsed than a kabuki actor."

The following day, Senator Joyce told the media: "If you are going to play marriage guidance counsellor, you've got to hear both sides of the story".

He went on to describe Mr Ashby as "only slightly less dodgy than Slipper".

Michael Harmer, representing Mr Ashby, says Senator Carr and Senator Joyce are using their high office to demean their client, possibly for political ends.

"In direct response to our client making such allegations (against Mr Slipper), our client has been subject to repeated public attacks on his reputation, integrity and credibility by senior politicians," he said.

Mr Harmer says public attacks on people who complain of sexual harassment will discourage other people from coming forward.

He says Senator Carr's tweet was republished in full in News Limited's Sunday newspapers, exposing the comment to about five million readers.

Mr Harmer says the Foreign Minister was also given the opportunity on ABC TV's Lateline program to withdraw his remarks, but declined.