Meowing senator touches off political row

Wed Jun 1, 2011 10:50am EDT
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CANBERRA (Reuters) - A meowing Australian senator touched off a political row in Canberra on Wednesday after his cat imitation directed at Finance Minister Penny Wong sparked accusations that the opposition behaved like sexists and goons, and were feral.

Liberal Tasmanian Senator David Bushby meowed at Wong at a hearing when Wong - Australia's first Malaysian-born and first openly gay cabinet member - fought constant interruptions.

A visibly livid Wong snapped, "Oh yes, why don't you meow when a woman does that? ... The blokes are allowed to yell, but if a woman stands her ground, you want to make that kind of comment.

"It's sort of schoolyard politics, mate."

Bushby initially refused to withdraw but issued an apology - on Twitter - after a barrage of attacks in Parliament during question time and comments by Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan that the opposition was sexist and behaved ferally.

For a video of the exchange between Wong and Bushby, click: here

(Reporting by Balazs Koranyi; editing by Elaine Lies)