CANBERRA -- Labor senator Alex Gallacher has had to apologise after failing to realise it was 2017 in asking officials at parliamentary hearing how much the Foreign Minister spends on flowers -- and admitting he did so because she is a woman.
The inappropriate grilling of officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs took place during a Senate estimates hearing in Parliament House.
It is certainly the time and place to find out all you can from senior public servants, but there were no bouquets for this question about Julie Bishop from senator Gallacher.
"Given that the 38th Foreign Minister is probably the only female in the list of Australian foreign ministers, were there decorations including flowers?" he boldly asked of Bishop's Budget night party.
Bishop was not in the hearing and was represented by Liberal senator and Assistant Minister Zed Seselja who took umbrage on her behalf.
"Why is that relevant? I'm not really sure what the relevance was of Senator Gallacher's question just then," he offered. "Because it's a female foreign minister we have to know about flowers and decorations?
"I'm not really sure about that."
Seselja then raised the temperature by suggested Labor Penny Wong "would be up in arms" if a Coalition senator had asked the same question.
Wong said that it was not her job is to speak out on every controversy to do with racism or gender. Regardless, Bishop can speak for herself.
And she has, releasing a quick statement.
"This might come as a shock to Labor Senator Gallacher but Australia's first female Foreign Minister spends her time focusing on serious issues of Australia's national security and other important matters of state."
Julie Bishop, Foreign Minister
Senator Gallacher later apologised to anyone who was offended by his question.
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