Federal Politics

'What?': Katy Gallagher explains mansplaining to Mitch Fifield during fiery estimates showdown

The Senate's community affairs committee is not usually associated with fireworks.

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Tensions boil over

Liberal frontbencher Mitch Fifield takes exception to Labor senator Katy Gallagher accusing him of mansplaining. The result? A heated exchange.

With questions centring around the allocation of community grants, budget breakdowns and the Social Services Department 'ring road', the hearings can often be filed under "worthy". 

But the calm of the committee was seriously disrupted on Thursday morning by three simple syllables: mansplaining. 

Labor's Katy Gallagher was questioning Turnbull government minister Mitch Fifield about some welfare and families bills and whether they had the authority of the new Prime Minister. 

This saw the Communications Minister (representing Social Services Minister Christian Porter in the Senate) launch into a lengthy explanation of internal government processes. 

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But before Gallagher could follow up with another inquiry, Fifield added: "Let me just stop you so you don't waste a line of questioning". 

And then indignation struck on multiple fronts. 

"I love the mansplaining. I'm enjoying it," Gallagher said, mixing fatigue with just a hint of provocation. 

At first the dig confused Fifield. 

"You're loving what? ... What's mansplaining, senator?" 

Gallagher was only too happy to fill him in on the 2014 Macquarie Dictionary word of the year

Imagine, senator, if I said you were womansplaining?

"It's the slightly patronising and condescending way that you're responding to my questions [as a man to a woman]," the ACT senator replied. 

Fifield turned from confused to incensed in 0.1 seconds, accusing Gallagher of making a "sexist implication about how I'm conducting my role". 

"Imagine, senator, if I said you were womansplaining? Imagine the reaction!"

When Gallagher pointed out that mainsplaining is "used" by others, Fifield expressed serious doubt. 

"By whom? By rude senators ... who are seeking to make gender an issue."

Things descended further from here. 

Fifield - wounded - declared he was only trying to be "helpful" before calling Gallagher a hypocrite. 

"Can I suggest, take a good look at yourself," he said, adding a few more cans of lighter fluid to the fire. 

For her part, Gallagher was totally unrepentant. Despite multiple offers from Fifield, she refused to take the mansplaining back to where it came from. 

Finally, it was up to committee chair (and Gallagher's old nemesis from ACT politics) Zed Seselja​ to call the warring senators to order. 

The committee was duly sent off for a break. 

It was time for a cup of tea and a rendezvous with the dictionary. 

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