• Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe says the traumatic experiences of the Stolen Generations are still being felt today. (NITV)Source: NITV
A Greens senator makes claims government MPs engaged in lewd comments harassing phone calls and unwanted touch towards her while working at Parliament House.
By
Sarah Collard

Source:
NITV News
23 Mar 2021 - 3:10 PM  UPDATED 23 Mar 2021 - 3:11 PM

A Greens senator has leveled explosive allegations against several government parliamentarians, accusing them of unwanted touches, lewd comments about her appearance and eating habits, and even unwarranted calls from a particular senator. 

Victorian senator Lidia Thorpe made the claims against two senators and two members of Parliament.

On Tuesday, Ms Thorpe told NITV News she felt unsafe walking inside Parliament House. 

"There's one particular senator who waits for me to walk in front of him," she said.

If he sees me coming out of my office, he'll wait, and he'll walk behind me, my staff have witnessed this as well."

Ms Thorpe said she had been subjected to unwanted physical contact by male politicians, including an unnamed colleague who put his arm around her. 

Ms Thorpe alleges she was touched inappropriately as she was walking down the stairs to the chamber for question time. 

Ms Thorpe also claims a House of Reps member put his around her during an inquiry, which made her feel "really uncomfortable". 

The Gunnai Gunditjmara and Djab Wurrung woman claims she has received suggestive and sexualised inappropriate questions and comments from a particular Liberal senator she declined to name.

"Suggestive comments like, 'What have you got in your mouth? What are you eating? I like what you're wearing today, like your hair, oh you've got your hair up today'" Lidia Thorpe told NITV News. 

"I expect this kind of behavior in a nightclub. Not in my workplace."

It's so brazen. These people believe they have so much power that they're above the law.

Parliament House slammed as 'unsafe' for women

The claims from Ms Thorpe come as the government has been rocked by a litany of sexual assault allegations which have engulfed Canberra for over a month. 

The Greens senator said she had previously been reluctant to go public with the allegations because she didn't want to draw attention away from other women speaking out against abuse, rape and sexual harassment. 

"I didn't want to take other women's voices away by saying anything. I just said to my staff, 'If it gets any worse then I'll call it out but I want these other women to have their agency,'" she said.

"It's so brazen. These people believe they have so much power that they're above the law." 

Ms Thorpe said she was afraid to walk alone inside Parliament House because she feared for her safety - even calling her partner in Melbourne to stay on the phone. 

She said she had told her staff to always make sure the doors to her office are locked. 

"I look over my shoulder before I walk into my office and I make sure (there's no one there)... I don't feel safe."

Ms Thorpe said she believed there was a lack of accountability for parliamentarians and staffers, and that nothing had come of the many allegations that have been made. 

"The can do whatever they like, and they'll get a slap on the wrist. I mean what do you get for being guilty of sexual harassment, or sexual assault or even rape in this place? What do you get? You get nothing. There's no action," Ms Thorpe said. 

An inquiry by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins is underway into the workplace culture within Parliament House, and a confidential sexual assault hotline for staffers has been set up.  

Ms Thorpe said she is considering making a formal complaint to the president of the Senate.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister's Office said workplace safety was paramount and urged anyone with allegations to come forward. 

"The Government takes all matters of workplace safety very seriously.

"Everyone should feel safe in a workplace and calls on everyone with allegations of sexual harassment to come forward." the statement read. 

The Prime Minister's office also said they are working on providing additional support including advice, education and support services for staff at Parliament House. 

"This includes additional onsite counselling services for staff at Parliament House, as well as an independent and confidential 24/7 telephone service to support current and former Commonwealth ministerial, parliamentary and electorate office staff."

The hotline can offer support and counselling as well as refer callers to the police and other specialist services.

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