Backlash over Lib’s shock ‘joke’
The Liberal Party's federal vice-president Teena McQueen has denied saying "I would kill to be sexually harassed at the moment" but has apologised for making a joke at a party meeting.
Three senior Liberal women reportedly told the Sydney Morning Herald that Ms McQueen made the comment at a meeting to discuss the NSW branch's new code of conduct.
However, Ms McQueen told news.com.au she didn't make those exact comments.
"What I said was, at my age - and it was a joke - every woman ages and I'm no longer sexually harassed, which is a fair comment considering I'm a grandmother," Ms McQueen told news.com.au.
"I have apologised and I've said I regret the comment - clearly I will no longer make any off the cuff jokes - even though it was a comment about myself, but I will certainly not go there again."
Ms McQueen said reflecting on her comments, she probably had made light of a serious matter.
"At the time it was a throwaway line," she said.
"My intent was not to make light of a serious situation but on reflection I can see why."
She also rejected criticism over reports from two attendees who heard Ms McQueens say "let's talk about women not getting drunk at work".
Ms McQueen, who does not drink alcohol, said the comments were not aimed at Brittany Higgins, who has accused a former staffer of raping her while she was drunk.
"I'm pretty annoyed that it's trying to be skewed in that direction," she said.
"I was brought up in hotels, I used to smell the wine and beer, and it turned me off alcohol … I saw the violence that occurred because of alcohol and I feel very strongly about this and it had nothing to do with Brittany.
"No one deserves to be attacked, whether they are drunk or on drugs.
"My disgust is with the use of alcohol, particularly at Parliament House."
Ms McQueen, who is in her 60s, said she had never been sexually harassed by men during her working life but as a teenager, a woman had tried to sexually assault her.
"It was a very frightening experience so I can relate very well to sexual assault - just not from a man. But sexual assault is sexual assault no matter who is doing it," she said.
"I think I use humour as a defence mechanism when discussing sexual assault - I will reflect on this and I have given it a lot of thought."
When asked whether Brittany Higgins' rape allegations had been handled well by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Parliament in general, Ms McQueen said "it was probably slow off the mark to respond".
"I believe everyone has Brittany's best interests at heart, it's a terrible thing she is going through and lessons have been learnt," she said.
"I hope nothing like this happens again and I think everyone is trying to assist Brittany and the healing she will have to go through."
She said she was "of course" supportive of the new code of conduct that makes clear the Liberal Party has zero tolerance for bullying, sexual harassment, vilification, physical violence and discrimination.
"As long as it's applied to everyone - men and women," she said.
However, she said "all sense of humour is lost".
"While people are complaining about my apparent insensitivity and there is great concern for women at the moment, there has been no concern about the barrage of media inquiries regarding me," she said.
"It appears that some women can be looked after and made sure they're okay, but other women - mainly conservative women - it's very difficult in this environment.
"I think if you care about women generally, you should care about all women and what they're going through."
"They just want to whack me on the head," she said.
"I'm a woman, and they jump in to protect other women but there is no concern from media. They are not listening to me, they just see it as an opportunity to whack.
"I've not only corrected but apologised for the things I said.
"I am really getting quite sick of the attacks, I have tremendous support from the base of the party but the attacks do get to me, I don't let on most of the time, I battle on.
"I think it affects everyone when you are a target in politics and I firmly believe that conservative women are a target and sometimes I think 'why bother'?"
Originally published as Backlash over Lib's shock 'joke'