Thorpe details sexual assault allegation in parliament

Lidia Thorpe forced the Senate to adjourn early on Tuesday night, after she repeatedly interjected, disobeyed orders.

Lidia Thorpe forced the Senate to adjourn early on Tuesday night, after she repeatedly interjected, disobeyed orders. Photo: AAP

Independent senator Lidia Thorpe has detailed allegations of her being sexually assaulted by a Liberal senator during a speech to the upper house.

The remarks followed Senator Thorpe using parliamentary privilege on Wednesday to accuse Senator David Van of harassment and sexual assault.

Senator Van has since denied the claim.

While not naming Senator Van in her speech on Thursday, Senator Thorpe said she was followed and then cornered in a stairwell by a senator at Parliament House, before she was “aggressively propositioned and inappropriately touched”.

“There are different understandings of what amounts to sexual assault … to me, it was sexual assault,” she told parliament.

“I was afraid to walk out of the office door.

“I would open the door slightly and check the case was clear before stepping out.

“It was to the degree that I had to be accompanied by someone whenever I walked inside this building.”

Senator Thorpe said she would not pursue legal action over the incident or go to the police with the claims.

“This is my choice, but I will continue to speak out against the abuse and harassment that happens in this building,” she said.

“I want to focus on making this place safe for everyone, and at this moment, it is not a safe place for women.”

The independent senator said the incident was not isolated and there were other people in parliament who had inappropriately touched her.

She said she was assured former prime minister Scott Morrison was informed of the incident after Senator Van moved offices.

“I did not make the incident public at the time because it was during the time Brittany Higgins had made her experience in this building public,” Senator Thorpe said.

Senator Van has denied he sexually assaulted or harassed Senator Thorpe but admitted he had to move away from her office following a complaint.

He said he was “shattered” by the “completely unfounded” allegations made by the former Greens senator in parliament on Wednesday.

“I have not harassed her in any way, shape, or form,” he told 2GB on Thursday.

Senator Thorpe made the accusations of Senator Van on Wednesday while he was making a speech accusing the Labor Party of unethical behaviour in its handling of the Brittany Higgins sexual assault allegations.

Senator Thorpe then accused the Liberal senator of harassing and sexually assaulting her, which led to him moving offices to a different location in Parliament House.

These comments were later withdrawn.

Senator Van rejected the allegations in parliament immediately and again in an interview on 2GB but did admit to moving offices in 2021 following a complaint made to the coalition leadership that he was following her into the parliamentary chamber.

“To put this on record, she’d made allegations to our leadership, through her leadership, that I was following her into the chamber, which made her feel uncomfortable,” Senator Van said.

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

“And, you know, at times I’d be in front of her and times I’d be behind her, but at no time did I harass her, touch her belly,” he said.

Senator Van said he then accepted an offer made by 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 use parliamentary privilege to make such allegations.


Topics: Lidia Thorpe
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