Defamation trial hears ‘malicious’ text message Pauline Hanson sent former senator’s wife | Australian politics

Pauline Hanson sent a “spiteful” and “malicious” text message to the wife of former One Nation senator Brian Burston claiming that he considered her to be an “old bag” and was “infatuated” with one of his staff members, a court has heard.

A defamation trial brought by Burston against Hanson began in the federal court on Monday over a series of what he argues are allegations of sexual harassment made against him on social media, in interviews, and in a text to his wife, Rosalyn.

In the text, sent in February 2019, Hanson claimed Burston, a One Nation senator from 2016 until 2018 when he sensationally quit the party, was being “investigated for sexual harassment” against one of his former staffers and was “infatuated” with another.

“You won’t get to see the evidence [it’s] all on text from him to her because it will be a closed decision, and she will get her to payout and [be] gagged,” Hanson wrote in the text.

“They can’t all be wrong.”

In the same message, Hanson also made what Burston’s barrister, Bruce McClintock SC, described as “intrinsically malicious”, “mean and spiteful” comments about what she claimed were the former senator’s feelings about his wife.

“He considers you to be nothing but a winging (sic) old bag turning out to be just like your mother, who he wants to drop dead,” she wrote.

“He tells his staff he owns your home. Wake up to him. I have nothing to gain. I believe you deserve to be treated with more respect.”

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The text, read out in court on Monday, was sent just days after an altercation in parliament between Burston and Hanson’s chief of staff, James Ashby, which led to the latter having his parliamentary pass temporarily revoked.

It followed Burston’s decision to quit One Nation in 2018 over what he described in court as “harassment” after he decided to support the Turnbull government’s corporate tax cuts.

“Harassing and generally treating me badly,” Burston said on Monday.

“It made me uncomfortable, and my position became untenable.”

Burston subsequently joined Clive Palmer’s United Australia party and left the senate in 2019.

text message

On Monday, he told the court the text message was “an attempt to destroy my marriage.”

The court also heard that in the months after he decided to quit the party, Ashby sent Burston texts in which he allegedly called the former senator an “idiot traitorous cunt”, a “coward,” and an “old man”.

Although Ashby is not a party to the case, he is expected to give evidence at the trial. On Monday, Burston was questioned by his barrister, Bruce McClintock, about a highly publicized “confrontation” between the two men following a Minerals Council dinner at parliament house the day before Hanson sent her text message.

Burston told the court he attended the event, including a keynote speech from then-prime minister Scott Morrison, with his wife. They were seated at the same table as Ashby, which he was “very surprised” by.

After he left the event, Burston said Ashby approached him and his wife.

“Ashby told me, ‘what do you think of the sexual harassment charges?’ and I said, get the phone out of my face,” he told the court.

“He kept asking me the same questions [and was] laughing and goading me as well.”

The confrontation continued until Burston said he pushed Ashby, who he claimed “took a swing” at him, which, he said, glanced past his ear.

He said that during the confrontation, he sustained a cut to his hand and admitted to wiping blood on Hanson’s parliament door, though he claimed he had “no memory” of the event until he saw it on CCTV later.

“I was traumatized,” he said. “He [Ashby] was very aggressive.”

Hanson is defending the case arguing the sexual harassment claims are substantially true, arguing Burston made a series of inappropriate comments towards female staff members.

In her defense, Hanson alleges Burston told a staff member she needed a “good fuck” and offered to come to her house promising “the best fuck you ever had”.

He allegedly told the same staff members separately that she was “getting a bit old” and “not as attractive as I thought she was”.

Hanson’s defense states that the alleged comments about the staffer made her feel “objectified and distressed, ” leading to her seeking counseling.

In the witness box on Monday, Burston denied the allegations.

“It’s false,” he said.

“It doesn’t make me too comfortable; it’s making me out to be a pervert in effect.”

Two of Burston’s former staffers are expected to give evidence during the trial.

McClintock said his client would argue that the sexual harassment allegations were “entirely fabricated” and that the events claimed by Hanson “never happened”.

Instead, he argued the two women made the allegations after Burston fired them for, among other things, getting drunk at a charity concert in Tamworth and, in one case, suspicions of a sexual relationship with another former One Nation senator, Peter Georgiou, something Burston considered to be a conflict of interest after he fell out with the party.

McClintock took Burston through a series of allegations by Hanson, including that the former senator made numerous inappropriate comments about the staff. He was asked whether, on separate occasions, he attempted to kiss a staff worker, asked her if she had breast implants, and told her she had “sexy legs”.

Burston denied those claims.

In the same text sent by Hanson to Burston’s wife in 2019, the One Nation founder also denied she had ever “hit on” Burston after the senator accused her of making unwanted advances toward him.

“I am not attracted to him now or ever,” she wrote, claiming that he was “vindictive”.

“This man said he would never hurt me or try to destroy One Nation. He turned on me because I couldn’t endorse him for another six years.

“I am sorry that was a political decision because he never worked enough to keep it. You may think differently, but please be objective.”

Bella E. McMahon
I am a freelance writer who started blogging in college. I am fascinated by human nature, politics, culture, technology, and pop culture. In addition to my writing, I enjoy exploring new places, trying out new things, and engaging in conversations with new people. Some of my favorite hobbies are reading, playing music, making crafts, writing, traveling, and spending time with my family.