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Daniel Andrews refuses to apologise for calling Liberal MP Cindy McLeish a ‘halfwit grub’ | Victorian politics

The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, is refusing to apologise to Liberal MP Cindy McLeish for calling her a “halfwit grub” in state parliament, arguing he was defending a female colleague at the time.

Andrews made the comment during debate on an opposition bill to adopt the four recommendations of the anti-corruption watchdog’s Operation Clara report, which was handed down earlier this year.

McLeish had raised a point of order arguing Northcote Labor MP Kat Theophanous should abstain from voting on the issue, given the report had found her father, Theo, secretly lobbied for a developer in exchange for donations to her 2018 election campaign.

The report did not find any evidence to suggest Theophanous was aware of her father’s relationship with the developer and made no adverse findings against the MP.

Andrews responded to the point of order by calling McLeish a “halfwit grub” but withdrew the comment following a request by the opposition.

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Outside parliament, McLeish called on the premier to apologise.

“I feel those comments were deeply offensive to me,” the Eildon MP told reporters.

“A woman should not have to put up with that in the workplace.”

McLeish raised allegations made in 2016 by two Labor MPs that Andrews had said Liberal MP Donna Bauer would not pose much of a threat at the 2014 election because she would be “shitting in a bag”. Bauer was battling bowel cancer at the time.

Andrews has always denied the allegation, describing it at the time as “defamatory, disgusting and wrong”.

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But McLeish said Andrews “needs to apologise”.

“No namby pamby beating around. He has to apologise to me,” she said.

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The opposition leader, John Pesutto, said the premier has to “change his behaviour or leave the parliament”.

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“No woman should have to put up with such abusive behaviour when she goes to work,” he said, flanked by several female colleagues.

Andrews, however, told question time he would not be apologising.

“There’s nothing to apologise for. I defended the member for Northcote, an independent, proud woman,” he said.

“I defended the member for Northcote and I always will from your attacks, unwarranted as they are.”

The minister for women, Natalie Hutchins, also defended the premier’s commitment to gender equality.

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“This premier has done more for the equality of women than any single premier has done in the past. I note that he has withdrawn his comment but he was also defending the good member for Northcote in an attack by those opposite,” she said.

Benita Kolovos

Published: 2023-06-20 08:03:03

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