‘Should have clocked her’: NSW Shooters MP told to apologise over alleged comment in parliament

<span>Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP</span>
Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

The leader of the New South Wales Shooters party has been accused of “intimidating” behaviour after he allegedly said that a fellow parliamentarian should have “clocked” a female MP during a division in parliament.

The comment, which follows a scathing review of Macquarie Street’s culture by the former sex discrimination commissioner Elizabeth Broderick, has prompted new concerns about complaints handling inside the state’s parliament.

While the comment was not caught by the official Hansard, a recording of debate last week appears to capture someone, alleged to be the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party leader, Robert Borsak, saying “he should’ve gotten up and clocked her”.

Related: Review of NSW parliament uncovers five alleged sexual assaults

Borsak’s former Shooters party colleague Helen Dalton, the independent MP for Murray, has alleged the comment was made by Borsak in reference to her.

The comment prompted Dalton to attempt to lodge a complaint with the independent complaints officer established by the parliament last month.

The officer, former fair trading commissioner and lawyer Rose Webb, is empowered to investigate complaints about MPs’ conduct, but Dalton says she was told the commissioner wasn’t able to investigate incidents in the chamber itself.

In a statement a spokesperson for the NSW parliament confirmed Webb was able to “receive and investigate complaints confidentially in relation to alleged breaches of the members’ code of conduct” but not conduct in “proceedings of the Legislative Council or Legislative Assembly or their committees”.

That, the Greens MP Jenny Leong said, showed there was a “clear gap in accountability and responsibility” with issues inside parliament.

“The standard of behaviour deemed acceptable in the chamber sets the standard for the parliament as a whole,” she said.

The comment was allegedly made during a division over an upper house motion seeking to block a controversial flood plain harvesting regulation introduced by the government.

During the debate, Dalton, who is a member of the lower house, entered the gallery after the One Nation MP Mark Latham had referred to her during his speech.

When Latham said Dalton was “good at dividing communities” and told her to “step in and have a crack”, she stood and appeared to enter the floor of parliament – a breach of parliamentary rules – before being instructed to sit again.

Following the debate, Borsak can be seen re-entering the chamber with Latham and a fellow Shooters MP, Mark Banasiak.

A man, alleged to be Banasiak, can be heard off camera saying the acting president of the upper house, Chris Rath, had been “too soft” – a comment Dalton claims refers to Rath’s treatment of her entrance into the chamber.

A man, alleged to be Borsak, can be heard off camera replying: “He should’ve gotten up and clocked her.”

The Labor MP Rose Jackson, who is on the select committee on flood plain harvesting, was in the chamber during the division but did not directly hear the comment. However, after watching the footage she said Borsak should apologise.

“Parliamentary debate is robust, I myself am a passionate contributor, but you can’t makes jokes about physically assaulting someone,” she said.

“It crosses a line. He should apologise and do better in the future.”

Dalton, who left the Shooters party in bitter circumstances in March this year, questioned Borsak’s place on a leadership dialogue established by the premier, Dominic Perrottet, to help implement the recommendations of the Broderick review.

“Regardless of who you’re referring to it’s unparliamentary and it’s also something we don’t accept outside of parliament,” she said.

“I don’t see why we set the rules for the state but that decency is not adhered to in parliament. The fish rots from the head [and] we should be setting an example for the state.”

Related: ‘Disturbing’ report into NSW parliament’s culture uncovers examples of bullying and sexual harassment

On Tuesday, Perrottet defended the inclusion of Borsak – and Latham – on the leadership dialogue despite their public criticisms of the Broderick review.

“There are different perspectives in relation to [the] recommendations but everyone is united by one principle and that is that our workplace is as safe as possible,” he said.

Released last month, the Broderick review made a raft of recommendations to improve the culture inside parliament, including strengthening codes of conduct and reviewing policies covering bullying, sexual harassment and sexual misconduct in NSW parliament.

Jackson said the fact Borsak’s alleged comment was being discussed “shows how far we have come … but the fact some people don’t get it and think this sort of stuff is funny or OK shows we still have work to do.”

Borsak did not respond to a request for comment.