Hanson adviser James Ashby banned from parliament over scuffle with Brian Burston | Australia news
Pauline Hanson’s senior adviser James Ashby has had his parliamentary pass revoked by the Senate president following an altercation with former One Nation senator Brian Burston.
Burston has vowed to refer the incident on Wednesday evening at Parliament House to the police and to seek a restraining order against Ashby but also offered an apology for smearing blood on the door of Hanson’s office that evening.
Burston and Hanson have been locked in combat over her decision to air allegations that he sexually harassed a former staffer, prompting him to retaliate by accusing the One Nation leader of making two unwelcome advances towards him.
The ill-will between the pair – which prompted Burston to split from the party last year – appeared to boil over on Wednesday night, when Burston was involved in a physical altercation with Ashby at after they were seated at the same table at the Minerals Council dinner.
Video recordings and images show Burston and Ashby tussling outside the Great Hall.
On Thursday afternoon Senate president, Scott Ryan, told the Senate he had reviewed video footage of “the reported incident between Senator Burston and Mr James Ashby” and concluded “it shows inappropriate by a pass-holder towards a senator”.
“Accordingly I have exercised my authority to revoke Mr James Ashby’s pass to access the building and prohibit him from entering the building for the time being,” Ryan said.
“Senators must be free to go about their work in this building, this privilege and protection is not limited to simple proceedings in the chamber.”
Ryan said the ruling – which speaker of the house Tony Smith assented to – does not affect Ashby’s employment nor prejudice any other legal proceedings that may be undertaken.
“Given the seriousness of the incident and evidence immediately available to me I believe immediate action is necessary and warranted.
“If further information comes to my attention this decision can be revisited and any subsequent legal action can be taken into account.”
Burston then stood and said: “Whilst I do not recall the incident of blood on the door I now have come to the conclusion that it was myself and I sincerely apologise for that action.”
In an earlier statement Burston’s wife Rosalyn said they were surprised to be seated with Ashby at a dinner function in parliament. Ashby left the table half an hour earlier to “deliberately ambush” the pair as they left, she said.
Burston “threw his arms at an object in self-defence” when Ashby “pounced” on them, she said.
Burston’s new party leader, Clive Palmer, has also stood by the senator, accusing One Nation of “cheap tricks”.
“From day one when Senator Burston announced he was joining the United Australia Party he has been attacked and vilified,” Palmer said.
On Thursday, Burston announced he was referring the matter to police and had sought a restraining order against Ashby, accusing him of “repeated acts of harassment and aggression”.
His office issued a statement saying the vision in public circulation did not show the entire incident.
Ashby was approached for a response. Burston also denied all allegations against him and said: “It is clear that James Ashby has set up Senator Burston to look badly for political purpose, all in breach of parliamentary rules.”
This week’s turmoil began when Hanson made a speech about an unnamed senator in the Senate on Tuesday night, using parliamentary privilege to say that the senator had engaged in “serious sexual harassment”.
A copy of a complaint by a former Burston staffer late last year, obtained by Guardian Australia, showed a woman had accused him of sexual harassment. She said she had been distressed by an office incident and Burston had offered to “‘fuck’ me to make things better”.
“I refused his approach, but inside my world shattered,” she said.
Burston initially declined to comment on the allegations when approached by Guardian Australia. His staff were subsequently responding to Guardian Australia’s questions when Burston interjected, describing the allegations as “garbage” and “all bullshit”.
A spokeswoman said Burston would not say the word “fuck”, something with which his wife, Rosalyn, agreed.
“My husband never says fuck,” she told Guardian Australia.
Later on Wednesday night, News Corp reported that Burston had said “fuck you” to a reporter. Of the altercation with Ashby, Burston told News Corp, “I told him to fuck off. I lost it.”
Burston has also promised to retaliate against Hanson and fellow One Nation senator, Peter Georgiou, in a speech in the Senate on Thursday evening.
He earlier described Hanson as a “woman scorned” and accused her of two unwelcome advances.
Hanson laughed off the allegations.
“I’m 64 … but I tell you what, I’m not that desperate,” she told Sky News.