Pauline Hanson’s chief-of-staff has been banned from Parliament after a run-in with former One Nation Senator Brian Burston.
The 70-year-old Senator Burston, now part of Clive Palmer’s newly launched United Australia Party, on Thursday admitted he was responsible for what appeared to be blood smeared on Senator Hanson’s door.
“While I do not recall the incident of blood on the door I have come to the conclusion that it was myself, and I apologise for that action,” Senator Burston said.
His comments came after Senate president Scott Ryan announced he had revoked James Ashby’s parliamentary pass after viewing video footage of the Wednesday night scuffle, which “shows inappropriate behaviour by a passholder towards a senator”.
“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,” Senator Ryan said.
“Pass holders are granted access to the building upon certain conditions around behaviour among others. These conditions are in place to protect all occupants of this building and facilitate the work of senators and members.”
Mr Ashby’s pass was revoked and he has been prohibited from entering the building for the time being.
Senator Ryan, who had earlier called the incident inside the building a “grave matter”, noted the decision could be revoked.
The bizarre incident, filmed by Mr Ashby, left Senator Burston allegedly bleeding from cuts to his hand.
Senator Burston said he had launched legal action, seeking a restraining order against Mr Ashby following the physical clash.
AFP confirmed it had spoken to Senator Burston and would evaluate the matter.
Senator Burston, in a statement, said the footage did not depict the full incident and he would seek a restraining order against Mr Ashby.
Council of Small Business of Australia chief executive Peter Strong witnessed the incident between Mr Ashby and Senator Burston.
He told the ABC when he walked into the Marble Hall he heard a commotion and saw Senator Burston throw Mr Ashby’s phone away.
“When Mr Ashby started filming the Senator’s wife, then the Senator reacted very quickly,” Mr Strong said.
“It became physical. There were no punches but it was physical.
“The whole thing was disgraceful.”
Mr Strong said the incident escalated when Mr Ashby followed and laughed at Senator Burston as he appeared to be leaving the building.
He said he later witnessed Senator Burston “put Mr Ashby up against the wall” before the two men disappeared from his sight.
Both senators were in the chamber on Thursday. Senator Burston appeared to be gesturing about his bandage to fellow crossbenchers.
Senator Ryan had said he would report back on his discussions.
“There are issues that range from the use of media and recording to claims of assault, to potential privilege issues about senators being able to go about their business in the building, just off the top of my head from what I have read in the media,” he said.
“I plan to speak to senators involved and if anyone would like to bring anything to my attention I would encourage them to do so. We both regard this as a grave matter for some of the reasons you outlined.”
Earlier, Senator Hanson declared that she “might be 64, but I am not that desperate”, and emphatically denied the ugly claims that led to the clash.
Senator Burston had on Wednesday told The New Daily that Senator Hanson had sexually harassed him in the past. His allegation came after he was approached for comment on a speech the One Nation leader made under parliamentary privilege.
Senator Hanson alleged an unnamed senator was behind “serious sexual harassment” of staff and unfair dismissals. Senator Burston said he was the implied target of the claims and ruled out her allegations.
Senator Hanson rejected his own claims that she had sexually harassed him or made a pass, saying they were laughable and “a joke”.
“I might be 64, but I am not that desperate,” she said on Wednesday night.
“I just think they are so hilarious, I really do. I’ve got nothing to hide.”
On Thursday, following the altercation with Mr Ashby, Senator Hanson said Senator Burston needed anger management training.
“I think it’s retaliation and it’s a shame this is happening in Parliament,” she said.
“He really needs to go and get some anger management.”
In final bizarre note, security was called to Senator Hanson’s office late on Wednesday after a red substance, which a One Nation staff member thought was blood, was smeared across a door.
“My hand was injured when Ashby put his phone in the face of my wife and I defended her, fearing for her safety,” Senator Burston told The New Daily.
“I injured my hand in trying to get the phone off her. [Mr Ashby] ambushed me after attending the Minerals Council dinner, where he sat at the same table. Obviously a setup.”
But Senator Hanson said Mr Ashby had done nothing wrong.
“James didn’t do anything, It’s a shame that it has come to this. It really is,” Senator Hanson said.
Senator Burston entered Parliament as a One Nation senator in 2016. He defected to Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party in 2018.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said One Nation was again descending into chaos.
“It would be comic – except it’s not – it’s violence and unparliamentary conduct,” the Labor leader said.