The Pepper Spray Debate That Launched The Leyonhjelm Diatribe

An "ill-conceived, blundering" idea kickstarted the whole ugly mess.

David Leyonhjelm's vile comments about fellow senator Sarah Hanson-Young have dominated politics for nearly a week now, but you might not know what led up to his controversial outburst.

Ironically, the Liberal Democrats senator made his now-infamous "you should stop shagging men" jibe during a debate about keeping women safe from attacks carried out by men.

On Thursday, the Senate debated a motion from Fraser Anning -- formerly a One Nation politician, then an independent senator, now sitting as a member of Katter's Australia Party -- calling for the government to relax restrictions on pepper spray, mace and tasers.

Anning claimed such changes would help women defend their "personal safety," noting the "recent spate of horrific violent crimes against women".

Anning's motion was the source of a vigorous debate in the upper house, but was comprehensively defeated when it came to a vote. There were 46 votes against the plan, with only five -- all men, all conservative -- supporting the push.

Liberal senator James McGrath said the government "has no intention of relaxing restrictions on the importation of antipersonnel sprays."

Greens senator Janet Rice called it an "ill-conceived, blundering and harmful motion",  and called for Anning to "focus his attention on interventions that prevent men's violence."

"The last thing that women in Australia need now is another man in power telling us that we are responsible for violence against us," Rice added.

Labor's Anthony Chisholm said his party would also not back the motion.

"Women have a right to safety in public spaces and in their homes, but it is ludicrous to suggest that more weapons will make women safer. Allowing ordinary people to walk around with tasers in their pockets won't improve safety on our streets," he said.

The motion was opposed by all women in the room, and has been seen by some as a cynical ploy from conservative senators to relax Australian weapons restrictions by taking advantage of the safety debate.

The debate and vote took just seven minutes in total. But one sentence from Leyonhjelm, allegedly uttered during the vote, was to set off a week of furious debate and outrage about how women are treated in parliament, in media, and in general society.

"You’ll have to stop shagging men now, Sarah,” Leyonhjelm yelled at her during the vote. Hanson-Young took the floor following the pepper spray debate to report the comments, setting the past week's news into motion.

The Liberal Democrats senator claimed his outburst was in response to Hanson-Young making a comment about men and rapists -- claims Hanson-Young has consistently and vehemently denied making.

The debate has now moved on from a mere discussion about the specific comments made in the chamber, and onto a wider debate around how women are treated and disrespected.

Considering the topic of the motion that started it all, this whole ugly mess should never have occurred in the first place.