The Morrison government is remaining tight-lipped about reports controversial former Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella will be appointed to the Fair Work Commission.
The mooted plum posting has enraged Labor, with senators demanding answers at a parliamentary hearing in Canberra on Wednesday.
Labor senator Deborah O’Neill accused Ms Mirabella of making sexist and disparaging remarks towards women while in politics, including about former Labor minister Kate Ellis.
“She referred to her by saying ‘here comes the weathergirl’,” Senator O’Neill told parliament.
Ms Mirabella also appeared in front of a “ditch the witch” sign and another banner labelling former prime minister Julia Gillard as then Greens leader “Bob Brown’s bitch” at parliament 10 years ago.
After being told it was a good week for him to call out sexism, Liberal frontbencher Jonathon Duniam reacted angrily.
“I find behaviour that has been widely canvassed and reported upon disgusting. Of course I condemn that sort of behaviour,” he told Senator O’Neill.
“But I’m not going to run a commentary on a list a senator brings into this place and links to an appointment.
“I stand with everyone in this place condemning the behaviour you’ve referred to.”
Senator O’Neill said she sensed the Minister’s authenticity before noting there were men in parliament who did not share sexist views.
“That’s a very good observation. Thankfully someone’s finally made that observation,” Senator Duniam said.
Attorney-General’s Department acting secretary Iain Anderson said appointments were usually subject to cabinet secrecy.
Both the Minister and officials refused to comment on media speculation the former Liberal MP would join the industrial umpire.
If Ms Mirabella is appointed as a commissioner, her annual salary will be $387,000, while a deputy president earns $470,000.
She held the regional Victorian seat of Indi for 12 years before being defeated by independent Cathy McGowan in 2013.
Since then, the Abbott government appointed her to the Australian Submarine Corporation board and she also worked in government relations for Gina Rinehart.
The opposition is also set to pursue claims Fair Work deputy president Gerard Boyce set off illegal firecrackers on commission grounds at a work function.
The conduct has been referred to police and Comcare, the federal authority for work health and safety.
Mr Boyce has previously been the subject of Senate estimates hearing for having scantily clad figurines and a life-size cutout of Donald Trump in his office.
He was appointed by the Coalition government after working for an employer group.