As Senator Nick Xenophon found out, senate estimates is a tough time of the year. Tempers flared up in the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee on Thursday morning as a female senator accused communications minister Mitch Fifield of "mansplaining."
Fifield -- Liberal Senator for Victoria and Minister for Communications and the Arts -- was being questioned by Labor Senator Katy Gallagher about whether the Prime Minister had approved some recent family and welfare bills. Fifield gave a long answer about how legislation progresses through the Liberal party structure, and as Gallagher moved to ask a follow-up, he cut her off by saying "Let me just stop you so you don't waste a line of questioning."
Gallagher sighed and proclaimed "I love the love the mansplaining. I'm enjoying it."
Fifield was confused.
"You're loving what?" Fifield asked.
"What's mansplaining, senator?"
"Talking me through, by not answering the question, by repeating processes which are not related to the question I've asked... the slightly patronising and condescending way you're responding to my questions," Gallagher responded.
Fifield was clearly not aware of the term, which in 2014 was named Macquarie Dictionary's "word of the year." The Macquarie Dictionary defined it as:
verb (t) Colloquial (humorous) (of a man) to explain (something) to a woman, in a way that is patronising because it assumes that a woman will be ignorant of the subject matter.
Fifield was incensed, attempting to turn it around on Gallagher.
"If you're putting the word 'man' in front of some description of what I'm doing, you're doing that which I'm sure you're very much against, making a sexist implication about how I'm conducting my role," he snapped back.
"Imagine, if I said you were 'womansplaining,' imagine the reaction."
Gallagher responded it "is a term that is used."
"By whom? By rude senators? By senators seeking to make gender an issue?" Fifield shot.
"I'm not being patronising. I thought we were having a good-hearted exchange."
"I'm quite frankly appalled."
Exchanges between the two continued for several minutes, with tempers rising, until the committee chair called a 15-minute break to quell the conflict.
Estimates is often an odd place; case in point, colour senator Bill Heffernan's comments from Monday, as noted by BuzzFeed:Suggest a correction