Liberal senator confirms office move after Thorpe complaint

David Van denies Lidia Thorpe's accusations

Liberal senator David Van has confirmed he moved parliamentary offices in 2021 after complaints about his behaviour from crossbench senator Lidia Thorpe.

A “shattered” Senator Van against denied allegations made by the former Greens senator in parliament on Wednesday and said they were “completely unfounded”.

“I have not harassed her in any shape or form,” he told Sydney radio on Thursday.

It followed Senator Thorpe’s bombshell claim in Parliament on Wednesday that Senator Van had sexually harassed and assaulted her.

Senator Thorpe broke into a debate on civility and the controversy surrounding Brittany Higgins’ rape allegations.

“I’m feeling really uncomfortable when a perpetrator is speaking about violence,” she told the chamber.

“This person harassed me, sexually assaulted me and the prime minister had to remove him from his office. And to have him talking about this today is an absolute disgrace.”

Senator Thorpe later withdrew her comments, although she said she would make a further statement on Thursday.

Senator Van immediately denied Senator Thorpe’s allegations, describing her comments as “malicious” and “reprehensible” use of parliamentary privilege, or the protection from defamation proceedings afforded to MPs.

“I utterly reject that statement, that disgusting statement, outright,” he said.

In a later statement, he added: “My lawyers have written to her already, making my position clear in the strongest possible terms.”

On Thursday, he again denied the accusations.

“I’m shattered by these allegations. I feel battered,’’ he told 2GB.

“I am hurting so badly.

“I’ve been in shock ever since. It’s just awful. It’s terrible for me and my family.”

Senator Van said his only physical contact with Senator “would have been when I shook her hand after her maiden speech”.

“Nothing else that’s for sure,’’ he said.

However, he did confirm moving his parliamentary office in 2021, following a complaint from Senator Thorpe.

“She’d made an allegation to our leadership, through her leadership, that I was following her into the chamber, which made her uncomfortable,’’ Senator Van said.

He said that was the way politicians filed into the chamber due to the layout of Parliament House.

“At times I’d be in front of her. At times I’d be behind her. But at no time did I harass her, touch her, barely even said ‘hello’. I’m sure I said hello at some point.

“The leadership offered me another office – so I moved.”

Senator Van said he accepted an offer from then-Senate president Scott Ryan to move to an office further away from Senator Thorpe.

He said the Senator should go to the police with any concerns, rather than using parliamentary privilege to make such allegations.

Senator Thorpe’s allegations are being investigated by the current Senate president, Sue Lines.

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-with AAP

Topics: Lidia Thorpe
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