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Clerk of Senate should resign if she can't be neutral: Palmer

Date

Paddy Doulman

"None of you need have any contact with the member in question if you feel at all threatened or intimidated by him": Clerk of the Senate Rosemary Laing wrote in the internal email.

"None of you need have any contact with the member in question if you feel at all threatened or intimidated by him": Clerk of the Senate Rosemary Laing wrote in the internal email. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Clive Palmer has called for the Clerk of the Senate to resign unless she is able to maintain impartiality, following a staff email she wrote implying Mr Palmer was a bully.

A leaked internal email sent to Senate staff on Thursday, and obtained by Fairfax Media, reveals the Clerk of the Senate, Rosemary Laing, warning staff not to tolerate ''unacceptable behaviour'' and makes reference to ''conduct of a Member of the House of Representatives''.

While the email does not name the MP, it was widely reported two weeks ago there was an altercation between Dr Laing and Mr Palmer, the Member for Fairfax, over amendments to the Carbon Tax repeal bill.

Calling for Dr Laing to resign: Clive Palmer.

Calling for Dr Laing to resign: Clive Palmer. Photo: Nick Moir

Mr Palmer, leader of the Palmer United Party, was annoyed that the clerk would not distribute amendments put up by one of his senators, Glenn Lazarus.

The clerk argued that the amendments were effectively a monetary bill and constitutionally could not originate in the Senate.

In her staff bulletin issued on Thursday, Dr Laing warned against what she described as workplace bullying.

''You all have the right to a safe workplace and that includes the right to step away from - and report - bullies, whatever their status,'' she wrote. ''None of you need have any contact with the member in question if you feel at all threatened or intimidated by him.''

Mr Palmer said he did not raise his voice during the exchange, telling the clerk: ''If you do not circulate this amendment by Senator Lazarus I will challenge [your] position in the High Court.''

But on Thursday Mr Palmer took that position further: ''Australian democracy is far more important than this issue. The clerk is supposed to be impartial - if she is not up to the job, resign,'' he said.

Fairfax Media approached Dr Laing's office for comment but was told she was on leave. The Deputy Clerk of the Senate refused to comment on the matter.

In the email Dr Laing also took a swipe at press gallery behaviour during the past two weeks of parliamentary sitting, describing reporting of the carbon tax repeal negotiations as ''unethical''.

''In all of my years here, I do not believe I have seen anything so unethical from the press as this … [including a] disgraceful episode of press gallery members eavesdropping on private negotiations in the corridors over the carbon tax repeal legislation and writing stories on that basis,'' she wrote.

Last week all the major parties and the crossbench in the Senate - except the Palmer United Party and Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party senator Ricky Muir - spoke in praise of the clerk.

The president of the Senate, Stephen Parry, said: ''I have full confidence in the Clerk of the Senate and her officers. All Senate staff serve the Senate in an entirely professional and impartial way and I reject any claims to the contrary.''

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