Lidia Thorpe faces Senate censure and two investigations over relationship with ex-bikie
The Greens senator Lidia Thorpe is facing a possible Senate censure and two committee investigations over her undisclosed relationship with former bikie leader Dean Martin.
Thorpe’s resignation as the Greens’ deputy Senate leader on Thursday over a possible perceived conflict of interest due to her former role on the joint law enforcement committee has done little to quell the controversy.
On Friday the Liberal leaders, Peter Dutton and Sussan Ley, labelled Thorpe unfit to sit in parliament, while the Liberal Senate leader, Simon Birmingham, confirmed he would attempt to refer her to the privileges committee for investigation.
Related: Lidia Thorpe’s relationship with ex-bikie should have been declared to law enforcement committee, Labor says
Asked about potential motions against Thorpe in the Senate for a censure or investigation, the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, told reporters in Perth that Labor would “examine any proposal” that was moved.
Albanese noted the law enforcement committee was examining what confidential information was received in private hearings while Thorpe was a member “to ensure there has been no conflict there”, which he said was an “appropriate” action.
Labor has asked Thorpe and the Greens leader, Adam Bandt, to explain in the Senate and lower house why the potential conflict was not disclosed.
Albanese said Bandt needed to give a “full explanation” of the circumstances because he “apparently wasn’t aware of this information even though it was reported to his office”.
“That clearly shows they need to change their procedures that were in place.”
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Thorpe was a member of the joint committee on law enforcement from February 2021 to April 2022, during which time it reviewed the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission’s powers to conduct special operations and investigations, which include activities to combat outlaw motorcycle gangs.
Martin, who has no criminal convictions, was associated with the Rebels but stepped down as Victorian chapter president in 2018 after his brother Shane Martin – the father of AFL star Dustin Martin – was deported to New Zealand.
Labor senator Helen Polley, the chair of the law enforcement committee, told Guardian Australia her committee “deals with highly classified and sensitive material in relation to security information”. “Therefore the integrity of the committee must be upheld at all times.
“This isn’t simply poor judgment by the Greens party senator. These are serious matters of disclosure and potential conflicts of interest that deserve to be looked into.”
Guardian Australia does not suggest that Thorpe shared any confidential information with any person not authorised to receive it.
Birmingham told Sky News that Thorpe had “serious questions” to answer about the relationship, warning the conduct “may well give rise to a privileges investigation and inquiry, and we will be pursuing those in the Senate next week”.
Dutton told Channel Nine that Thorpe was not fit to sit in parliament after receiving “classified briefings in relation to the methodology and what the Australian federal police are doing against what they describe as one of the biggest crime groups and importers of amphetamines, perpetrators, of all sorts of crimes”.
“I think she clearly, she should resign … I mean, you can’t receive those briefings during the day and then hang out, you know, in nice circumstances of a night-time with a bikie.”
Related: Lidia Thorpe resigns as Greens deputy leader in Senate over relationship with former bikie boss
Bandt has described the failure to disclose the relationship as a “significant error of judgment” but that – on the facts as they currently stand – her resignation from the leadership group was an “appropriate sanction”.
In a statement, Thorpe said she accepted she “made mistakes” and had “not exercised good judgment”.
Thorpe told the ABC, which first revealed the relationship, she met Martin “through Blak activism and briefly dated in early 2021”.
“We remain friends and have collaborated on our shared interests advocating for the rights of First Nations peoples.”
Thorpe acknowledged she did not advise Bandt of her relationship with Martin, but insisted that confidential committee documents on how the AFP monitors outlaw motorcycle gangs were “treated in confidence”.
Thorpe said Martin’s history with the Rebels was a “past connection”.
“Obviously, I’m concerned about the criminal activities of outlaw motorcycle clubs in general. But when we met, Mr Martin was no longer involved with that world.”
Labor’s manager of government business in the Senate, Katy Gallagher, told Channel Nine it was a “serious issue” and “the Senate deserves an explanation”.
“Certainly the committee that she sat on deserves an explanation. And I think there’s probably more to go but I don’t think it’s going to be that easy to just flick it off as a ‘serious error of judgment’.”