‘Outrageous’ allegations have been aired in the defamation case of former One Nation and United Australia Party senator Brian Burston
Former Australian senator told female staffer he hoped she ‘got a good boost’, complained about her sex life and reported her to police for allegedly stealing a painting that she had given him as a gift, a court heard.
Details of Brian Burston’s dispute with the former staffer have emerged after he sued One Nation party leader Pauline Hanson alleging she defamed him on social media and spreading allegations complaint of sexual harassment.
Mr. Burston, 74, returned to the Federal Court witness box on Wednesday where he was questioned about his treatment of former staff members.
Ms Hanson’s lawyer, Sue Chrysanthou SC, told the court that in December 2018, Mr Burston called an employment review meeting and became concerned about how his former aide Terrie-Lea Vairy had consumed alcohol at a previous event.
“She rejected your advances and you were repaying her…you found out she had a relationship with Senator (Peter) Georgiou…you concocted false allegations against her and this was one of them,” Ms Chrystanthou said.
Mr Burston denied Ms Chrystanthou’s claims and alleged that his former One Nation Senate colleague Peter Georgiou complained that Ms Vairy made contact while intoxicated.
Within a month of the employment review meeting, the court heard that Mr Burston had reported Ms Vairy to the police for the theft of stolen rings in September 2018.
“My mother-in-law had her jewelry stolen while she was sleeping in her house,” Mr Burston explained.
“Terri-Lea brought a set of rings and said ‘is that the stolen rings? “”
Mr Burston denied the suggestion the police report was an attempt to discredit Ms Vairy and said he had never reported the theft earlier because ‘it was a busy time of year’.
Ms. Vairy’s conduct is not the subject of legal action and News Corp does not suggest that she committed any wrongdoing.
“I never tried to discredit any of my staff,” Mr Burston told the court.
After Ms Vairy challenged the concerns expressed by Mr Burston at the job review meeting, the court was told her job was at risk and she was taken on stress-related leave.
Mr Burston then made another report to the police regarding the alleged removal of a board and plates from his desk.
“She (Ms Vairy) gave it to me and said ‘here’s a painting, nobody likes it in the office,'” Mr Burston said.
“It was an oil painting of a forest landscape, if I can put it that way, full of trees.
“She said these (plates) have been lying around for ages, you can have them too.
Mr Burston said the painting was ‘seriously damaged’ and he used $456 of taxpayers’ money to have it reframed.
“The ownership, in my view, has changed and I have spent Commonwealth money to have them cropped specifically for display in the office,” he said.
“She (Ms Vairy) actually helped me choose the setting. She stole Commonwealth property.
Ms Chrysanthou said ‘after you sent her (Ms Vairy) a letter threatening her job and making allegations about her, she took up these articles… you are a disgraceful employer’.
Mr. Burston countered that suggestion and said he treated his staff with respect.
“They had a great professional lifestyle agreement with me,” he told the court.
In a claim Ms Vairy later made to Comcare, the national workers’ compensation authority, the court was told that Mr Burston allegedly told her ‘he was hoping I would get a good boost’ .
“I remember it was in response to going to a beautician for eyelash extensions, it’s just my warped sense of humor,” Burston explained.
A claim that he sent messages to Ms Vairy with repeated references to hugs and kisses was also denied by Mr Burston, who suggested the word ‘repeatedly’ meant excessively.
“I did this at a time when Ms Vairy was going through a very dark time,” he said.
A message saying ‘I love you’ was also sent by Mr Burston around the same time, the court was told.
Another claim by Ms Vary – who suggested Mr Burston had given her a birthday card and when she tried to hang it up he tried to shove it into her top – was also dismissed and the court was informed that Ms Vairy’s Comcare application had been rejected.
‘I never give cards on special occasions, not even birthdays, because it’s a waste of money,’ Mr Burston told the court.
In response to issues raised in Ms Vairy’s claim to Comcare, Mr Burston told the court he believed she continually flirted with him because he had been sent a picture of herself with other women with a caption underneath that read “Charlie’s Angels…Brian’s angels”. .
“I take it as a gesture of flirtation,” he said.
No other instances of alleged flirting were mentioned in court.
The court was told that after Mr Burston reported Ms Vairy to the police, he sent a letter to a senior finance ministry official.
‘I am concerned about her state of mind,’ he wrote in the letter, which the court said also included references to Ms Vairy allegedly drinking heavily throughout the day and constantly phoning the office. of Senator Hanson in a state of distress.
The court was told the letter written by Mr Burston also contained a complaint alleging Ms Vairy and then-Senator Georgiou had sex ‘between their taxpayer-funded apartments’.
Mr Burston said he did not recall calling another staff member a ‘numb nut’ or smearing blood on the door to Senator Hanson’s office, but he agreed that CCTV told him shows doing this.
The court was told that during Mr Burston’s three years in the Senate, four of his aides resigned, four were fired and two others never passed probation.
Mr Burston said Senator Hanson’s comments about him and the allegations of sexual harassment were “outrageous”.
“I have never been investigated for sexual harassment,” he said.
Mr. Burston claimed that Senator Hanson had sexually harassed him.
He left One Nation in mid-2018 and became a member of Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party.
The hearing continues.