A former Senator has now accused Senator David Van of 'inappropriate' touching.

Content warning: This story includes descriptions of sexual assault that may be distressing to some readers.

This week in the Senate, Independent Senator Lidia Thorpe used parliamentary privilege to accuse a Liberal senator of sexual assault.

The accusation occurred on Wednesday while the Sex Discrimination Commissioner's report on parliamentary workplaces was being discussed by Victorian Liberal Senator David Van.

Following the event, Senator Thorpe decided to withdraw the accusation on Wednesday night as part of Senate standing orders. On Thursday, she released a full statement while in the Senate, crying as she read it out loud.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton later announced Senator Van will no longer be sitting in the Liberal party room, after receiving further allegations against him following the statement made by Senator Thorpe. 

Watch the full exchange between Lidia Thorpe and David Van. Post continues below.

Video via ABC/Parliament. 

On Thursday night, former Liberal Senator Amanda Stoker accused Senator Van of inappropriately touching her at a 2020 event. 


When asked on Friday if he was aware of further allegations against the now-crossbench senator, Dutton replied: "Yes."

"I raised another allegation with Senator Van, but I'm not going to comment in relation to those matters otherwise," he told the Today Show. 

"I made a decision yesterday based on all of the information that was available to me... that's a decision I don't regret at all."

Here's everything we know.

What did Lidia Thorpe initially say?

As Senator Van was speaking, he was interrupted by Senator Thorpe who interjected across the chamber floor. 

Thorpe can be heard interjecting and calling out the word "perpetrator" and saying: "You can talk! You can talk! You know what you were doing around this time, you know what you were doing around this time don't you Van? You got away with a lot."

Deputy Senate President Andrew McLachlan was overseeing the chamber when the allegation emerged.

Senator Thorpe then went up to the microphone and said: "I'm feeling really uncomfortable when a perpetrator is speaking about violence."

The Deputy Senate President interjected throughout her statement, saying: "Senator Thorpe, that is inappropriate, and reflective poorly on a member and I have to ask you to withdraw that."

She replied: "I can't, because this person harassed me, sexually assaulted me. The [then] prime minister had to remove him from his office. To have him talking about this [the Sex Discrimination Commissioner's report on parliamentary workplaces] today is an absolute disgrace on the whole party."


The Deputy Senate President continued: "Senator Thorpe I would just warn you... and I'm going to have to refer that to the [Senate] President, I think. I am just looking at the leaders, my course of action is to refer it to the [Senate] President. Senator Van, please continue with your contribution."

What did David Van say?

It was at this point that Senator Van immediately denied the allegation made by Senator Thorpe.

"I utterly reject that statement, that disgusting statement, outright," he told the Senate. "It is just a lie, and I reject it."

The Deputy Senate President then spoke, appearing to begin to ask Senator Van to withdraw the term "lie", which is usually not accepted as parliamentary language.

Senator Van added: "Sorry, I withdraw the word lie. It's just not true."

Later on Wednesday, Senator Van released a statement further denying the allegation. He also said he had contacted his lawyers.

"In the chamber today Senator Thorpe made unfounded and completely untrue allegations against me that I immediately and unequivocally denied and continue to deny," he said on Wednesday.

"These outrageous and reprehensible comments were made by Senator Thorpe using parliamentary privilege in the most malicious and despicable way. My lawyers have written to her already making my position clear in the strongest possible terms."


On Thursday, Senator Van confirmed he moved offices after a complaint by Senator Thorpe in 2021 that his behaviour was making her uncomfortable.

Senator Van maintained his denial against any claim of sexual harassment or assault from Senator Thorpe as he spoke to Nine Radio, as per ABC News. But he said he did take up an offer from then-Senate President Scott Ryan to have his office moved further away from Senator Thorpe's following the complaint. 

"She had made allegations to her leadership that I was following her into the chamber, which made her uncomfortable," Senator Van said. "That's just the way we file into the chamber into divisions. At times I would be behind her, at times in front of her."

Liberal senator David Van. Image: AAP.


What has Scott Morrison said about the allegation?

Senator Thorpe alleged that when Scott Morrison was Prime Minister he "had to remove him [Senator Van] from his office".

In a statement to Guardian Australia, a spokesperson from Morrison's office said: "Mr Morrison has no recollection of Lidia Thorpe ever making such an allegation to him personally or of any involvement in Senator Van moving offices."

Deputy Senate President Andrew McLachlan, who oversaw the Senate when the allegation was made, said he would refer the matter to the Senate president, Sue Lines, who was not in the chamber at the time.

Lidia Thorpe withdraws her accusation.

Senator Thorpe returned to the chamber later on Wednesday night to say she was withdrawing the remarks in order to comply with Senate standing orders, but would make further comment on Thursday. Senator Thorpe is yet to make that additional statement today.

In the Senate, she said: "Earlier today I made some comments in relation to another senator. The Deputy President referred the matter to you [Senate President Sue Lines] and you requested me to withdraw those remarks. In order to comply with the parliamentary standing orders, I withdraw those remarks."

"For the information of the Senate, I will make a further statement on the matter tomorrow."


Thorpe's office has yet been unable to provide further information after her earlier comments, with a spokesperson declining to detail when or where the alleged incident took place.

Lidia Thorpe issues a statement. 

Senator Thorpe on Thursday began by saying she had withdrawn her allegation "because the rules of the Senate do not allow you to speak about someone's character".

She then went on to provide context behind her allegation.

"As all women that have walked the corridors of this building know, it is not a safe place. You are often alone and at long corridors with no windows and in stairwells hidden from view. Where there are no cameras. This was my new workplace. This is a workplace women in this building know," she said.

"I experienced sexual comment and was inappropriately propositioned by powerful men. One man followed me and cornered me in the stairwell and most of this was witnessed by… staff and fellow member for parliament. No one witnessed what happened in the stairwell as there were no cameras in stairwells."

Senator Thorpe providing her statement. Image: AAP.


She alleged there are others who have "experienced similar things and have not come forward".

"There are different understandings of what amounts to sexual assault and what I experienced has been followed, aggressively propositioned and inappropriately touched."

She said she felt "afraid" to walk out of the office and would "check the coast was clear" before stepping out of her office.

"To me, it was sexual assault. And the government at the time recognised it as such. At the time I spoke to the president of the Senate about it. I spoke to my colleagues about it. I spoke to the sex discrimination commissioner Kate Jenkins about it during the inquiry. I spoke to senior leaders in the Liberal party and it was assured that the prime minister was informed at the time," Senator Thorpe claimed.


"I was convinced that the government believed me. The actions immediately moving the person's office reassured me that they understood the seriousness of what I experienced."

Saying why she didn't share this allegation with the public at the time it allegedly occurred, Senator Thorpe said "it was during the time Brittney Higgins had made her experience in this building public".

"I did not want to have anything taken away from her experience and her bravery in coming forward. I believed that was the right decision. My faith in the Liberal party was not the right decision. Until yesterday I thought they had taken this matter seriously. But then yesterday I had to listen to a senator who has made me feel unsafe speak on how important it is to keep women safe in parliament. Silence is violence."

"And yesterday I could not stay silent as someone who has knowingly made me feel unsafe had the gall to stand up in front of parliament and preach about protecting women. This was not an isolated incident. And there are others I could name who have inappropriately touched me. Invaded my space and knowingly made me feel unsafe."

Senator Thorpe finished her statement by saying she was "disappointed by the reaction" of Senator Van on Wednesday when the allegation was made in the Senate.

"This type of behaviour makes it harder for other women to come forward. The standard we walk past is a standard we accept ourselves too," she said.

Senator Thorpe said she will not pursue legal action against Senator Van. She also said she will not go to the police, saying "this is my choice".


"I will continue to speak out against the abuse and harassment that happens in this building. That is my choice. I want to focus on making this place safe for everyone. And at this moment, it is not a safe place the women and I call on the government to immediately increase the number of security guards in the building and cameras in the corridors and to consult women who work here on what measures can and should be taken," Senator Thorpe said.

"I send my love and solidarity to all women, girls and gender diverse people out there who experience many different forms of sexual violence and to all those survivors, we must continue to stand strong, stand together and never be silenced."

David Van dumped from Liberal party room by Peter Dutton.

On Thursday, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said Senator Van has been advised he will not sit in the Liberal party room after receiving further allegations against him following the statement made by Senator Thorpe.  

Dutton said following Senator Thorpe's allegation yesterday, another allegation was brought to his attention.

He met with Senator Van and advised him he had decided the senator should no longer sit in the Liberal party room. He said the decision was not a reflection on Senator Van's guilt or innocence.

"Further allegations in relation to Senator Van have been brought to my attention overnight and this morning. As such, I met with Senator Van this morning and a short time ago, I advised Senator Van of my decision that he should no longer sit in the Liberal party room," Dutton said.


"At the outset, I want to make clear, very clear, that I'm not making any judgment on the veracity of the allegations or any individual's guilt or innocence."

Dutton said The Parliamentary Workplace Support Service is now "conducting their considerations of these matters".

David Van makes a further statement.

Following Dutton's words, Senator Van again strenuously denied the allegations being made.

"There should be and must be an investigation into these outrageous claims so that they can be proved to be false. I will fully cooperate with the investigators and answer any questions that they may have of me and Senator Thorpe should do the same," he said.

Lidia Thorpe on Amanda Stoker's allegations. 

On Thursday night, former Senator Amanda Stoker, a former assistant minister for women, released a statement accusing Senator Van of inappropriately touching her at an event, hours after he was removed from the Liberal party room.  

In her statement, Stoker said Senator Van "inappropriately touched me at an informal social gathering in a parliamentary office" in November 2020.

"He did so by squeezing my bottom twice," she said.

"By its nature and by its repetition, it was not accidental.

"That action was not appropriate. It was unprofessional and uninvited."

Former Senator Amanda Stoker. Image: AAP. 


Senator Van said he had no recollection of the incident, telling news.com.au he had a "friendly" chat with Stoker after her complaint and he would never have inappropriately touched her.

"I can confirm I had a very friendly and open discussion with my colleague some years ago about this and made it clear that I had no recollection of any such event, and can confirm it is not something I would ever do," he told the publication.


Speaking to ABC Radio after Stoker's allegations, Senator Thorpe said the media's narrative changed when "a white woman stood up and said this happened to me too". 

"I became the perpetrator, the person that was demonised," she said. 

"I had a media pile-on that day, and it wasn't until a white woman stood up and said 'yeah, this happened to me too' that the media took notice."

"And I think that is a great account of the media landscape in this country, and that is systemic racism."

Senator Thorpe said the last 48 hours had been "horrible" and alleged parliament was not a safe workplace for women.

"It's such a toxic culture in that workplace, I've never experienced such a toxic workplace culture towards women."

She added that the case exemplified why women did not speak out against improper behaviour.

"I was not believed, I was questioned, I was absolutely demonised that day, by everybody."

If this has raised any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service.

This article was originally published on June 14th and has since been updated with new information.

- With AAP. 

Feature Image via Parliament/AAP.