Green Senator Lidia Thorpe said she was “not going anywhere” shortly before the Senate ordered an investigation into her secret relationship with ex-biker Dean Martin.
On Tuesday, Thorpe and the leader of the Greens, Adam Bandt, gave parliament personal explanations about the events that triggered Thorpe’s resignation as deputy leader of the Green Senate on Thursday.
It came when the Senate passed a motion referring the matter to its privileges committee.
Related: Lidia Thorpe will report to the privileges commission on the relationship with the ex-biker
The motion noted Thorpe’s “undeclared personal relationship” while he was a member of the joint law enforcement committee. He asked the privileges committee to investigate whether Thorpe’s failure to disclose the report had improperly hindered or interfered with the work of the parliament’s law enforcement committee and whether he had committed contempt of parliament.
Thorpe told the Senate that he met Martin through a “blak activism” and to “date briefly” with him in 2021, although the couple “remain friends and have collaborated in [their] shared interests that defend the rights of First Nations people ”.
“All the confidential information that I have received … has been treated confidentially,” he said. “I strongly reject any suggestion that I would do anything other than meet the committee’s requirements. I note: no one has offered any evidence to the contrary ”.
Thorpe agreed that she should have disclosed the link with Martin to Bandt and the law enforcement committee and said she had resigned due to that failure.
“Thanks to everyone who sent messages of love and solidarity,” said the Victorian senator. “The support has been overwhelming. I will not go anywhere, especially until we have a treaty in this country that I will continue to fight for ”.
Thorpe said after providing his explanation he would turn his attention to his “important portfolio work, particularly fighting for First Nations justice.”
Earlier, Senate chairman Sue Lines said it was “unusual” for a senator to try to refer to the privileges committee, but he gave priority to a debate over the need for an investigation.
Lines said Thorpe’s letter “does not go to his reasons [the referral nor] provide further details on the allegations or your responses to them “.
Lines noted that the privileges committee would accept requests, including seeking information from Thorpe and the law enforcement committee, that they would have access to relevant records and whose members would be “in a good position to determine if it has occurred. interference “.
Once priority was granted, Labor Senator Anthony Chisholm called for Thorpe to be postponed.
He told the Senate that “publicly known facts have called into question the potentially serious implications of the Thorpe conflict, including the possibility that the committee’s work has been hampered.”
“These are revelations regarding the revelations and Australians have a right to believe that the oversight processes here in parliament … will be maintained in a way that ensures integrity,” Chisholm said, quoting Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
Liberal Senate Leader Simon Birmingham said trust in the Senate and its committees is of “paramount importance” and disclosure obligations are important to ensure integrity.
“These disclosure obligations matter all the time, completely,” he said. “They are critically important when it comes to sensitive information and matters that go to law enforcement operations.”
Birmingham noted that in August 2021 the law enforcement committee concluded a review of an amendment to strengthen the legality of the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) powers to conduct special operations and investigations.
ACIC has coercive powers to investigate serious criminal activity. In July 2020, it instituted a special operation on outlaw motorcycle gangs.
In its report, the committee noted that ACIC had offered to provide details on the “importance of evidence obtained through the exercise of coercive powers in the fight against organized and serious crime”, even “behind closed doors” in one session. private.
Related: Fierce or stubborn? Lidia Thorpe on voice, treaty and royal power
Earlier, in the lower house, Bandt said he first became aware of Thorpe and Martin’s relationship when he was recently contacted by the media.
Bandt said Thorpe’s then chief of staff raised the issue with his chief of staff, Damien Lawson, who “did not inform me of these matters at the time.”
Bandt said Lawson was a “very good and knowledgeable chief of staff” who made many good decisions but “this wasn’t one of them”.
“I should have said it, but it wasn’t,” said the leader of the Greens. “By not informing me, my Chief of Staff did not meet the expectations of my staff in these matters. I have recommended my chief of staff. “
Bandt said the “primary responsibility” to inform him rested with Thorpe, but he supported her to continue his work because he assured him that the information was treated in confidence and “no one suggested otherwise”.
Bandt said his office was emailed by Martin in 2016 to protest the deportation of his brother Shane Martin, but “it was not clear” that his office had taken steps to help him.
Bandt also referred to a “complaint from a former staff member” suggesting that the Greens had not followed their own rules for handling complaints against Thorpe.
He noted that an “independent audit sponsored by the Finance Department” had begun in Thorpe’s office and the parliamentary support service in the workplace was reviewing the Green procedures.