Finance minister Mathias Cormann said Labor senator Penny Wong was “channelling Pauline Hanson”, before accusing Wong of "confected outrage" when she said she was offended.
The fiery exchange in Senate Estimates came as Wong interrogated Cormann about the government's ongoing negotiations with One Nation to pass its company tax cut legislation.
Wong was detailing the right wing party's list of demands, putting them to the finance minister, in what Cormann compared to the style of the One Nation leader.
“I know you like channelling senator Hanson,” Cormann said.
“Actually that’s a little offensive," Wong fired back. "She thinks people like me were swamping Australia, actually."
“You’re speaking her words,” Cormann said.
"We don't channel Pauline Hanson," Wong said. "You're the ones who cosy up to her and let her write tax policy and government policy in order to get her vote," Wong said.
"I reject that," the finance minister replied.
“Well, don’t tell me I channel Pauline Hanson, I find that personally offensive," Wong continued. "I can tell you what happened to me and my family and people like us when she stood up in the parliament, possibly before you were here, saying Australia was in danger of being swamped by Asians."
Wong was born in Malaysia and moved to South Australia aged eight.
Wong demanded that Cormann withdraw and apologise for his comments.
Cormann said he didn't intend to cause offence, but accused Wong "confected outrage".
"Someone Asian, 'You're channeling Pauline Hanson?' How dare you - IT IS NOT CONFECTED," Wong bellowed back.
Wong said she was the wrong person to be compared to Hanson, and would continue to fight the views of One Nation.
Pauline Hanson weighed into the heated exchange, telling 2GB radio she doubts Wong was offended because "she's a great actress".
Hanson described Wong's reaction as “a load of bunkum”.
“I’ve seen her performance on the floor of parliament, she’s a great actress," Hanson told 2GB host Ben Fordham.
Alice Workman is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Canberra.
Contact Alice Workman at email@example.com.
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