Liberal senator David Van rejects Lidia Thorpe accusation
Lidia Thorpe has accused Senate colleague David Van of harassment and sexual assault during a heated exchange in parliament, an allegation the Liberal politician vehemently denied. Liberal senator David Van rejects Lidia Thorpe accusation.
Thorpe made the claims under parliamentary privilege during an interjection in the Senate on Wednesday afternoon as Van was speaking about respect in parliament.
Thorpe’s office was unable to provide further information after her comments, with a spokesperson declining to detail when or where the alleged incident took place.
“I’m feeling really uncomfortable when a perpetrator is speaking about violence. I can’t [withdraw], because this person harassed me, sexually assaulted me,” Thorpe, the independent senator from Victoria, claimed in the Senate.
“The prime minister had to remove him from his office. To have him talk about this today is an absolute disgrace, on the whole party.”
Van, a Liberal senator from Victoria, immediately stood to respond: “I utterly reject that statement, that disgusting statement outright. It is just a lie. And I reject it … it’s just not true.”
Following the Senate’s question time on Wednesday afternoon, during the chamber’s time allotted to “take note of answers” from the question time session, several senators reflected on responses provided by the finance minister, Katy Gallagher, about her knowledge of Brittany Higgins’s allegations of rape.
Van was critical of Labor’s prior questioning of Coalition members about the Higgins matter, and spoke about parliamentarians “setting the standard” for Australia.
Thorpe can be heard interjecting on taped video of Van’s speech, although parliamentary microphones in the chamber did not pick up the detail of her words.
The acting senate president, Andrew McLachlan, who was speaking to another senator at the time, asked Thorpe to stop interjecting and called for a “respectful debate”. Van then said “disgraceful, when I’m trying to say these things”, before going on to talk about the sex discrimination commissioner Kate Jenkins’ Set the Standard report on parliamentary workplaces.
Thorpe continued interjecting, but her comments could not be heard clearly. Van called for a better “discourse” in the chamber, and as Thorpe’s interjections continued, McLachlan asked her multiple times to withdraw those comments before she stood to make her claim.
After Thorpe referred to Van as a “perpetrator”, McLachlan immediately asked her to withdraw the claim, which he said was “inappropriate”. Thorpe said “I can’t” before making further claims.
McLachlan said he would refer the matter to the Senate president, Sue Lines, who was not in the chamber at the time. Van continued his contribution, saying he would “utterly reject that disgusting statement outright. It is just a lie.”
McLachlan appeared to begin to ask Van to withdraw the term “lie”, which is usually not accepted as parliamentary language. Van then withdrew the word “lie”, adding “it is just not true”.
Thorpe and Lines have been contacted for comment.
In a statement, Van called the claims “outrageous and reprehensible” and said they were “unfounded and completely untrue allegations against me that I immediately and unequivocally denied and continue to deny”.
“My lawyers have written to her already making my position clear in the strongest possible terms,” he said.
A spokesperson for Scott Morrison said: “Mr Morrison has no recollection of Lidia Thorpe ever making such an allegation to him personally or of any involvement in Senator Van moving offices.”