Lidia Thorpe says she’s ‘not going anywhere’ as Senate investigates relationship with ex-biker

Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe said she was “not going anywhere” shortly before the Senate ordered an investigation into her undisclosed relationship with ex-biker Dean Martin.

On Tuesday, Thorpe and Greens leader Adam Bandt gave parliament a personal explanation of the events that triggered Thorpe’s resignation as deputy leader of the Senate Greens on Thursday.

It came as the Senate approved a motion to refer the matter to its privileges committee.

Related: Lidia Thorpe will refer to the privileges committee on her relationship with the ex-biker

The motion noted Thorpe’s “undisclosed personal relationship” while a member of the joint law enforcement committee. He asked the privileges committee to investigate whether Thorpe’s failure to disclose the relationship had improperly hindered or interfered with the work of Parliament’s Enforcement Committee – and whether she had committed a contempt of Parliament.

Thorpe told the Senate she met Martin through “blak activism” and “briefly dated” him in 2021, though the pair “remain friends and have collaborated on [their] common interests defending the rights of First Nations peoples”.

“Any confidential information that I have received…has been treated confidentially,” she said. “I strongly reject any suggestion that I would do anything other than comply with the demands of the committee. I note: no one has brought the slightest proof to the contrary.

Thorpe admitted she should have disclosed the connection to Martin to Bandt and the Law Enforcement Committee and said she quit over the failure.

“Thank you to everyone who sent messages of love and solidarity,” said the Victorian senator. “The support has been overwhelming. I’m not going anywhere, especially until we have a treaty in this country that I will continue to fight for.

Thorpe said that after giving her explanation, she would turn her attention to her “important portfolio work, particularly the fight for First Nations justice.”

Earlier, Senate Speaker Sue Lines said it was “unusual” for a senator to seek referral to the privileges committee, but prioritized a debate over whether an investigation is needed.

Lines said Thorpe’s letter “does not go to his reasons for [the referral nor] provide further details of the allegations or its responses to them”.

Lines noted that the Privileges Committee would accept submissions, including seeking information from Thorpe and the Law Enforcement Committee, which would have access to relevant records and whose members would be “well placed to determine whether a interference occurred”.

After precedence was given, Labor Senator Anthony Chisholm called for Thorpe to be removed.

He told the Senate that “facts known to the public have called into question the potentially serious implications of Thorpe’s conflict, including the possibility that the work of the committee has been obstructed.”

“These are worrying revelations and Australians have every reason to believe that the scrutiny processes here in parliament… will be upheld in a way that ensures integrity,” Chisholm quoted Prime Minister Anthony Albanese as saying.

Liberal Senate Leader Simon Birmingham said trust in the Senate and its committees was of “supreme importance” and disclosure obligations were important to ensure integrity.

“These disclosure obligations matter all the time, completely,” he said. “They are of paramount importance when it comes to sensitive information and matters relating to law enforcement operations.”

Birmingham noted that in August 2021 the Law Enforcement Committee concluded consideration of an amendment to strengthen the legality of the powers of the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) to conduct operations and investigations specials.

ACIC has coercive powers to investigate serious criminal activity. In July 2020, he set up a special operation on outlaw motorcycle gangs.

In its report, the committee noted that the ACIC had offered to provide details on “the importance of evidence obtained through the exercise of its coercive powers in the fight against serious and organized crime”, including “to behind closed doors” during a private session.

Related: Loyal or stubborn? Lidia Thorpe on voice, treaty and real power

Earlier in the lower house, Bandt said he first learned of Thorpe and Martin’s relationship when contacted by the media recently.

Bandt said Thorpe’s chief of staff raised the issue with his chief of staff, Damien Lawson, who “did not advise me of these matters at the time.”

Bandt said Lawson was a “very good and competent chief of staff” who made many good decisions, but “this was not one of them.”

“I should have been informed, but I was not,” the Greens leader said. “By not informing me, my chief of staff did not meet my staff’s expectations in this regard. I advised my chief of staff.

Bandt said the “primary responsibility” for informing her lay with Thorpe, but he supported her to continue her work as she had assured him that the information was being treated confidentially and “nobody suggested opposite”.

Bandt said his office received an email from Martin in 2016 protesting the deportation of his brother Shane Martin, but it was “unclear” whether his office had taken any action to help him.

Bandt also referred to a ‘complaint from a former member of staff’ suggesting the Greens failed to follow their own rules in dealing with complaints against Thorpe.

He noted that an “independent review under the auspices of the Department of Finance” had begun in Thorpe’s office and that the Parliamentary Workplace Support Service was reviewing the Greens’ procedures.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *