Greens senator Lidia Thorpe has taken personal leave from parliament after reportedly telling a Liberal counterpart "At least I keep my legs shut".
While Senator Thorpe accepted her language was inappropriate and apologised unreservedly, she rejected claims the comment was directed at the autistic son of Liberal Hollie Hughes.
"That characterisation of my interjection is completely untrue, and more importantly, harmful to every disabled person," she said in a statement on Thursday.
Senators were told the outspoken MP had taken a leave of absence for personal reasons.
Senator Hughes says she was dumbfounded to hear the comment during a debate in parliament on Wednesday but did not regard it as slut-shaming.
"What I took from it ... was had I kept my legs shut (then) I wouldn't have a child with autism," she said.
Senator Hughes said she couldn't care less about someone having a go at her.
"But when someone invokes someone's child, I think they have crossed a line."
Senator Hughes also expressed disappointment the comments were made a day after the release of a landmark review of workplace culture at Parliament House.
The review, conducted by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins, revealed some of the worst bullying was woman on woman.
"I hope people in this place take stock over the Christmas break," Senator Hughes said.
Liberal colleague Ben Small said the "outrageous" comment ranked at the top of "disgusting" statements made in the Senate.
Senator Thorpe's comments came a day after a Liberal senator was accused of making dog noises towards another female parliamentarian.
Assistant Attorney-General Amanda Stoker said it was important to get the culture within Parliament House right.
"It is important we all lead from the top," she told Sky News.
"(Senator Hughes) is a tough nut, she will be OK. It is personal and it is not nice."
Labor frontbencher Tanya Plibersek said the alleged comments were inappropriate.
"If it is true, obviously it is really quite shocking," she told ABC radio.
Australian Associated Press
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