Shock new twist in Emma Husar case
THE court case between Labor MP Emma Husar and the news website Buzzfeed has taken a shock turn, with two more parliamentarians drawn into the saga.
Ms Husar is suing Buzzfeed Australia, its parent company Buzzfeed Inc and journalist Alice Workman for defamation over an article, a tweet and a Facebook post published in August.
She claims in her court documents that the published material conveyed a number of false and defamatory implications about her, including that she is "sexually perverted" and "a slut who boasts about who she has had sex with", that she engaged in "inappropriate sexualised behaviour" towards her staff, that she sexually harassed male staff members, and that she misused taxpayer funds.
In court documents outlining its defence, Buzzfeed alleges Ms Husar told a female staffer at her electorate office that independent Senator Derryn Hinch "had come up right close" to her and "touched her all over her body".
It also alleges Ms Husar demonstrated what had happened by touching the staffer's body in the same way, without her consent.
Both Ms Husar and Mr Hinch have strongly denied any such incident took place.
"I shouldn't deign to even answer this, but - I have met Ms Husar two, maybe three times over the past two-and-a-half years, always in the company of staff, to discuss domestic violence and the need for a Family Court royal commission," Mr Hinch said.
"There is absolutely no truth to it. Not a skerrick."
Ms Husar said: "It is regrettable that other parties have been dragged into this. While I cannot comment on the particulars, it is important for me to say that Senator Hinch has never acted inappropriately towards me."
The defence alleged Ms Husar had a sexual relationship with fellow Labor MP Ed Husic. They allege that shortly after she was elected to Parliament in 2016, she told a staff member she didn't want her new job to complicate that relationship.
But those details have since been struck out of Buzzfeed's defence by Justice Steven Rares. Mr Husic says he did date Ms Husar but they are now friends.
As the case proceeds, the court will first need to determine whether the article, tweet and Facebook post in question did indeed convey what Ms Husar alleges they did.
If the answer to that question is yes, Buzzfeed has indicated it will rely on a truth defence, which means it will need to prove each imputation true.
The court filing outlines a range of alleged behaviour from Ms Husar to support its case.
It describes two instances where Ms Husar was allegedly alone with a male staffer in her parliamentary office and "leaned over his shoulder towards his computer, pressing her right breast against his left shoulder and arm".
It claims she told staff she was sexually attracted to her physiotherapist, then invited him to her office for a drinks event, where she "made a sexually suggestive comment" to him in the presence of her staff.
The defence claims at least two staffers reportedly felt so uncomfortable that they left the event.
Buzzfeed says it was Ms Husar's "common practice" to discuss "who she found attractive, who she wanted to have sex with or who she had had sex with" in her office.
Ms Husar says she will "meet the allegations head on".
Meanwhile, Justice Rares has urged both parties to consider mediation, warning they face a complicated and expensive case.
"Someone's going to win, and someone's going to lose … and a whole lot of collateral damage might be done to a whole lot of people," he said.
An internal Labor Party investigation conducted last year cleared Ms Husar of inappropriate conduct towards her staff, finding no evidence to support their claims.
Nevertheless, in November four of those former staffers wrote to NSW Labor's general secretary accusing Ms Husar of "sustained inappropriate conduct" that "made our positions untenable".
The allegations up-ended her political career.
In August, under immense pressure, Ms Husar announced she would quit politics at the next election. But a few months later she backflipped and decided she wanted to recontest her marginal Sydney seat, Lindsay.
Labor rejected her, instead preselecting former NSW state politician Diane Beamer for the seat.
Ms Husar has indicated she is considering moving to the crossbench and running as an independent.
"I have a lot of friends around this building," she said in December. "I haven't made any decision.
"I love my job, so I would consider doing whatever I needed to do to stay there."