One Nation Senator Brian Burston has been accused of creating a toxic workplace rampant with sexual harassment.
The allegations have been made in a sensational defamation case brought by Burston against One Nation leader Pauline Hanson, reports news.com.au.
One Nation Senator’s toxic workplace
74 year-old Burston has accused Hanson of falsely portraying him as a pervert on Facebook, and in an interview with a journalist and also in a text message to his wife.
Hanson is arguing a truth defence, however, claiming testimony from former staffers prove it.
Burston eventually quit One Nation to join Clive Palmer’s party.
One of those staffers is former office manager, Wendy Leach.
She told the court Burston sacked her after she complained about his alleged infatuation with a female staff member.
Leach described a “toxic culture” within Burston’s office which left her in need of counselling and fearing she’d end up on the dole and losing her home.
She said Burston called her his “pet” on one occasion and sacked a staff member because he was “cocky and he used the parliamentary bathroom”.
Burston also allegedly described another female staff member as being “as ugly as a hat full of arseholes” and therefore wanted to fire her.
“I did bring up to the Senator that you can’t just keep sacking people without an exit interview,” Leach told the court.
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She doesn’t need qualifications
Leach said Burston expressed his desire to employ Terri-lea Vairy, who previously worked as his cleaner and who he described as “hot”.
“I said we needed to get re-elected, so hiring people with experience would have been better,” Leach said.
When Leach raised Vairy’s lack of relevant qualifications, Burston allegedly replied, “she’s good looking [Ms Vairy] she doesn’t need qualifications”.
Burston denies the claims and said he dismissed all staff for legitimate reasons.
You just need a good fuck
Then in May 2018, after Leach and a colleague had a meeting to resolve a dispute, Burston threatened both with the sack.
“He said ‘Wendy, you probably just need a good fuck.
“He said ‘I’m not joking … I can come around to your place … it’ll be the best fuck you ever have.’”
Leach said she didn’t complain about Burston’s comments at the time because she feared losing her job.
“It was just filthy,” she said.
“If I didn’t work there I would lose the house … I would have lost money … I wanted to keep my job.
“I’d seen all the other unfair dismissals and I’m very aware if you get on the wrong side, you’re out.”
Burston has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
Further allegations against One Nation Senator
Meanwhile, Leach told the court Vairy also experienced sexual harassment at the hands of Burston.
“She [Ms Vairy] felt groomed … she didn’t want to be seen alone with him, she was feeling creeped out by it all,” she said.
According to Leach, Burston had said “you’re wearing your hair in my favourite way”, “that’s a sexy skirt you’ve got on today” and also “your hair looks sexy like that” to Vairy.
The court also heard that he asked Vairy questions like “what sort of men do you go for” and “are they real boobs”
Leach said Burston said of Vairy: “she’s good looking but she’s as dumb as a shit carter’s horse”.
He has denied all the allegations.
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Employment lawyer Stephen Dryley-Collins described the alleged behaviour as “appalling”.
“These allegations are really disturbing and suggest a pattern of conduct that is not only highly offensive, but also unlawful,” he said.
“Parliamentarians should always set the highest standard expected in Australian workplaces, not acting like they belong in the gutter.”
Meanwhile, Leach filed an unfair dismissal claim in November 2018, and subsequently received more than $20,000 compensation.
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