UPDATE AT 4:40PM: Lyons Labor MHR Brian Mitchell has since apologised to the journalist he is said to have called a “maggot”.
He addressed the lower house this afternoon.
“Earlier today I saw some vision on ABC TV which included some heated words from myself towards a journalist,” he said.
“I have spoken to Matt Wordsworth from the ABC and apologised.
“I respect – in fact, deeply respect – the work of Mr Wordsworth and all his colleagues in the press gallery, and they should be able to do it without fear or favour.”
EARLIER: One of Tasmania’s four Labor members in the House of Representatives has appeared to call a journalist a “maggot” for asking questions about his colleague’s citizenship troubles.
Lyons Labor MHR Brian Mitchell took issue with ABC journalist Matt Wordsworth’s questioning of Braddon Labor MHR Justine Keay outside Parliament House on Wednesday afternoon.
Mr Mitchell denies calling the journalist a “maggot”, instead asserting that he was referring to Mr Wordsworth by his first name Matthew.
Bass Labor MHR Ross Hart and Franklin Labor MHR Julie Collins were also present.
“Can I just ask you about your citizenship? Do you think you should be referred to the High Court,” Mr Wordsworth asked Ms Keay.
“I’ve done everything I possibly can, every possible step to renounce my citizenship – and my documents prove that,” Ms Keay said.
“But what’s your excuse ...” Mr Wordsworth began, before Mr Mitchell cut him off.
“There’s no excuse. Come on, steady on,” Mr Mitchell said.
“Ask the right questions. Don’t be prejudicial, don’t use prejudicial language.”
Mr Wordsworth continued.
“When were you pre-selected?” he asked Ms Keay.
“What’s that got to do with it?” Mr Mitchell again interjected.
Ms Keay then cited the legal advice she had received, which would suggest she took all reasonable steps to renounce her British citizenship prior to nominating for election.
“These are the opinions of QCs and citizenship experts in the UK,” she said.
It was then that Mr Mitchell said this:
“Go and do your research, maggot.”
Ms Keay then looked at Mr Mitchell, clearly concerned at his comment.
Tasmanian Liberal Senator Eric Abetz, at times a vocal critic of the ABC, said Mr Mitchell’s conduct amounted to an “outrageous attack” and that the Lyons MHR should withdraw his comment and apologise.
“The journalist was rightly asking Ms Keay about the very serious questions that hang over her eligibility to sit in the Parliament,” Senator Abetz said.
“Brian Mitchell’s ugly and bullying comment and the silence from his other Tasmanian Labor colleagues is indicative of the Labor culture.”
The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance took to social media to condemn Mr Mitchell’s comments.
“This is unacceptable behaviour towards an accredited journalist doing their job,” the organisation tweeted.
“Matt Wordsworth should receive an apology.”