News, Culture & Society

Nazi debate: Liberal senator breaks down in the chamber

Sobbing Liberal senator claims Labor senator said the ‘most disgraceful thing’ and screams ‘I am disgusted in you’

A Liberal senator burst into tears and claimed a Labor rival said the ‘most disgraceful thing’ during a debate on Nazi symbolism.

Liberal Sarah Henderson was in tears and shouted across the chamber at Labor minister Murray Watt, telling him: ‘I am disgusted in you’.

It’s unclear what Mr Watt, who withdrew his remark, said to Ms Henderson. 

However, senators in the chamber said the bizarre confrontation related to text messages she sent the Victorian Liberal leader, who is trying to expel a state MP for attending the Melbourne anti-transgender rights rally where Nazis showed up.

The opposition is pushing to ram through a ban on Nazi symbols after a protest in Melbourne drew neo-Nazis, who used the Sieg Heil salute.

The Neo-Nazis hijacked a ‘Let Women Speak’ rally, organised by English anti-trans campaigner Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, in front of Victoria’s State Parliament on Saturday.

Pro-trans counter protestors had turned up to challenge Ms Keen-Minshull’s event but then found themselves opposing the black-clad group of men who taunted them with Hitler salutes.

In the Senate, Liberal frontbencher Michaelia Cash said the push to ban the Nazi symbol needed to take precedence.

‘Every Australian should find the actions of that small group of protesters who dared to use the Nazi salute offensive,’ she said.

‘Those who display Nazi symbols or use the Nazi salute are either ignorant of the past or are deliberately promoting evil.’

Finance Minister Katy Gallager said there is no place in Australia for Nazi ideology.

‘But I think we should also acknowledge this is a complex area of law and any move to ban Nazi symbols deserves serious consideration,’ she said.

‘The Australian people deserve better. We should stand together, we should send a strong voice about the events we saw in Victoria.

‘This bill needs serious consideration, not a stunt.’

But Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young shot back, saying politicising the issue would drag the debate into the gutter.

‘I don’t think anything we’ve displayed to the Australian people … is anything to be proud of,’ she said during the debate.

‘The politicking over this issue – which is serious, which is sensitive, which is fundamentally about the values of a respectful, democratic nation – should not be drawn into the gutter.’

The push to have the bill debated ultimately failed, with all sides agreeing it was an important issue to discuss, but Labor, the Greens and One Nation accusing the opposition of bringing it on as a last minute stunt.