15/02/2016 18:18 GMT | Updated 16/02/2016 01:59 GMT

'Mansplaining' Australian Government Minister Mitch Fifield Hits Out After Being Accused Of Patronising A Female Colleague

An Australian Government minister has lashed out after being accused by a female opponent of "mansplaining".

The ruling Liberal Party's Mitch Fifield was told by Labor Senator Katy Gallagher that he was responding to her questions in a "slightly patronising and condescending way".

The phrase - a contraction of "man" and "explaining" - was a mystery to Communications Minister Fifield, who had to ask just what exactly it meant.

Gallagher duly obliged by pointing out that it was when a man explained something to a woman in a way that appeared to treat her as a dimwit.

Fifield hit back by countering that it was his female critic who was being "sexist" with her use of the phrase.

The clash between the pair was caught on camera and has since been uploaded to Gallagher"s Facebook page.

verb (t) Colloquial (humorous) (of a man) to explain (something) to a woman, in a way that is patronising because it assumes that a woman will be ignorant of the subject matter.

In possibly the first ever use of the phrase in a political chamber, the "mansplaining" spat in the Australian Parliament erupted after Gallagher had been querying the progress of family and welfare bills approved by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Fifield gave a long answer about his party"s policy making, but as Gallagher moved to ask a follow-up, he cut her off by saying "Let me just stop you so you don't waste a line of questioning."

Gallagher sighed and then let rip with the M-word: "I love the love the mansplaining. I'm enjoying it."

The minister looked confused. "You're loving what?" Fifield asked. "What's mansplaining, senator?"

Gallagher replied: "Talking me through, by not answering the question, by repeating processes which are not related to the question I've asked... the slightly patronising and condescending way you're responding to my questions".

A furious Fifield tried to turn the tables during the hearing of the Australian Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee.

"If you're putting the word 'man' in front of some description of what I'm doing, you're doing that which I'm sure you're very much against, making a sexist implication about how I'm conducting my role," he snapped back.

"Imagine, if I said you were 'womansplaining,' imagine the reaction."

Gallagher responded it "is a term that is used."

"By whom? By rude senators? By senators seeking to make gender an issue?" Fifield shot back.

"I'm not being patronising," he said. "I thought we were having a good-hearted exchange. I'm quite frankly appalled."

The exchange continued for several minutes, with tempers rising, until the committee chair called a 15-minute break to calm the situation.

"Mansplaining" first emerged on feminist blogs around 2008 and was the New York Times' 'Word of the Year' in 2010.

It was first used in political controversy in 2012, with US Republican Presidential contender Mitt Romney accused of the practice.

The phrase entered the Oxford online dictionary, though not the Oxford English Dictionary, in 2014. That year, it was also "Word of the Year"in Australia's Macquarie Dictionary.

Senator Fifield, despite "communications" being his specialist subject, clearly missed the update.