Former Greens senator Lidia Thorpe has withdrawn statements accusing Victorian Liberal senator Andrew Van of sexually assaulting, who said he is “absolutely shattered” by the outburst.
The explosive allegation came shortly after question time on Wednesday, prompting Thorpe to promise a further statement on Thursday. Senator Van vehemently denied the accusation, branding it as untrue and baseless.
The confrontation between the two senators unfolded during a speech by Senator Van on the importance of parliamentary conduct as a benchmark for the nation. Senator Thorpe, unable to contain her emotions, began shouting and interrupting her colleague. She expressed her discomfort, stating:
"I'm feeling really uncomfortable when a perpetrator is speaking about violence."
Deputy President Senator Andrew McLachlan intervened, requesting Senator Thorpe to withdraw her comments. He deemed them inappropriate and detrimental to the reputation of the chamber. However, Thorpe stood her ground and refused to comply with the request.
In a surprising twist, late Wednesday night saw Thorpe retract her statements in accordance with parliamentary standing orders. Nonetheless, she indicated her intention to address the matter with further details during Thursday's session.
Sky News Australia is reporting that Thorpe will likely not resile from her original statement in comments expected to be delivered following question time.
Responding to the allegations, Senator Van vehemently denied them, denouncing Thorpe's claims as unfounded and completely untrue.
He accused her of exploiting parliamentary privilege to make malicious and despicable remarks. Senator Van's legal team wasted no time in contacting Thorpe to assert his position in the strongest terms possible.
The seriousness of the accusation prompted former Morrison cabinet minister and South Australian Liberal senator Anne Ruston to comment on the matter.
Senator Ruston emphasised the gravity of the situation and welcomed the referral of the case to the president of the Senate.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison also weighed in on the issue, stating that he had no recollection of the event in question. He further clarified that he had not been approached by Thorpe regarding any alleged harassment involving Senator Van.
Notably, this is not the first time Senator Thorpe has spoken out about sexual harassment within the parliament.
In March 2021, she revealed that she had experienced harassment from multiple politicians within her first six months in office. No official complaint was made at the time.
Senator Thorpe's outspoken nature has drawn attention on previous occasions as well. In April, she received a lifetime ban from a Melbourne strip club after engaging in a tirade of insults towards a group of individuals.
Prior to that, she courted controversy for disrupting an anti-transgender rally outside Parliament House and confronting members of the AFP during the Mardi Gras parade.
As the allegations continue to reverberate through the halls of parliament, the focus now shifts to the upcoming statements by both senators, expected to shed more light on the unfolding drama.