Chair-sniffing stink again fills the air
Several years ago West Australian Treasurer Troy Buswell, then in opposition, made a complete arse of himself by sniffing the chair of a female staffer. Done amongst a group of close mates this crass act might have been amusing – even though lots of people won't admit it, sick humour can be funny: witness Sam Kinison – but sniffing a chair in front of a female staffer who recently occupied it is a gross error in judgement, ultimately costing Buswell leadership of West Australia's Liberal Party.
The incident is again in the news in a West Australian piece titled Inside story: staffer tells of chair-sniffing hell (click the link to view two videos of Smith for the first time describing Buswell's shenanigans):
It was a panicked Troy Buswell who phoned former Liberal Party staffer Karry Smith with a bizarre question on February 15, 2008, just three weeks after he was elected Opposition Leader in a bitter struggle with Paul Omodei.
"He said I've just had a television crew stick a camera under my nose and ask me if I'd ever sniffed your chair. Have I?" Ms Smith told The West Australian in an exclusive interview this week.
"I was a bit taken aback because I don't think you'd forget about doing that to a person. I said yes you have and you know you have."
For the next 10 weeks Ms Smith endured a barrage of media inquiries as the chair-sniffing rumour circulated the WA political world. She became afraid to answer her phone. She begged Mr Buswell's office to deal with the situation, even offering to write a statement for Mr Buswell to read in Parliament but her entreaties were greeted with silence.
Now she wants to ensure that no one else is ever placed in the same situation she found herself in 2008 when the world turned its gaze on the bizarre story of the leading politician who sniffed the chair of a female worker.
Ms Smith gives her reasons for now going public with full details of the chair-sniffing indiscretion:
I see our Equal Opportunity Act as discriminatory now because I know what it means to be sexually harassed and not have any provisions of legislation to offer any kind of protection.
This is rather odd considering that Smith makes it clear that her anguish was more due to the ongoing media frenzy than to Buswell's suggestion that he could detect her lingering scent on a piece of furniture. In my opinion, Smith does not make a good case for having suffered sexual harassment and it is unclear exactly how legislation might be worded to cover all such incidents which females might find offensive.
Also, Smith's initial decision to refuse to comment on the incident and her ongoing (then) support for Buswell do nothing to enhance her credibility.