Dutton calls for Liberal senator David Van to resign from parliament

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Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has called for David Van to resign from parliament after revealing he was aware of a third allegation of misconduct against the Liberal senator.

Dutton told radio station 2GB he was speaking to the Victorian division of the party about Van’s future, but it was up to the state branch to expel him, after independent senator Lidia Thorpe and former Liberal senator Amanda Stoker went public with claims of inappropriate conduct this week.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton says he is aware of a third allegation against senator David Van.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

“I think it’s in everyone’s best interests that he resign from the parliament sooner than later and seek the help that he needs. I think that would be an appropriate next step,” Dutton said on Friday.

Dutton, who moved Van to the crossbench on Thursday, told Nine’s Today program on Friday there was a third allegation but declined to go into detail.

“I raised another allegation with Senator Van, but I’m not going to comment in relation to those matters otherwise,” Dutton said. “I made a decision yesterday based on all of the information that was available to me.”

Dutton said the additional information had come to him after Thorpe on Wednesday accused Van in parliament of “harassing” and “sexually assaulting” her, claims Van strongly denied. Thorpe later withdrew the comments to comply with Senate rules.

On Thursday, Thorpe told the Senate an unnamed man had cornered her in a stairwell, and alleged that during her time in parliament she had been “aggressively propositioned and inappropriately touched”.

Van accused her of “concocting” her allegations and “cowering under the umbrella of parliamentary privilege to make her claim”.

Dutton told Today that on Thursday morning he’d heard “further information that caused me considerable concern, allegations that were made”.

Independent Victorian senator Lidia Thorpe held back tears as she delivered a speech alleging she had been assaulted in Parliament House.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

Stoker then released a statement on Thursday night saying Van “inappropriately touched me at an informal social gathering in a parliamentary office” in November 2020.

“He did so by squeezing my bottom twice. By its nature and by its repetition, it was not accidental. That action was not appropriate. It was unprofessional and uninvited,” she said.

This masthead does not suggest any of the allegations are true.

Dutton told 2GB on Friday said he could not elaborate on the third complaint “because there’s a person who I understand doesn’t want to be identified”.

However, he did say the allegation was of a “similar nature to those relating to Senator Stoker”.

He said he had referred the matters to the Parliamentary Workplace Support Service for investigation.

Dutton said women should be encouraged to deal with complaints the best way they were able to.

“For some women, that means that they don’t want to come forward … they don’t want to be dragged through the media, etcetera, which is perfectly understandable.”

He said he met with Van and “wasn’t satisfied with his response or his denial”.

“He’s been very clear about his denial, both to me and in public comments that’s he’s made, but I didn’t accept that,” he said.

On Friday morning, Van released a statement saying he was “stunned that my good reputation can be so wantonly savaged without due process or accountability”.

“I will fully co-operate with whatever process Mr Dutton proposes to determine these matters as quickly and fairly as possible,” he said.

“While I understand the public interest is high, I will not be making any more public statements on the allegations until a proper examination of these claims is concluded.”

Senator David Van has been booted to the crossbench.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

Van’s office was moved after Thorpe made a complaint against him two years ago. Asked whether then-prime minister Scott Morrison should have done more at the time, Dutton replied, “no”.

“There wasn’t a suggestion as I understand it of sexual assault in relation to that matter, and it was discussed with the Greens’ Senate leadership team at the time and obviously Senator Thorpe as well, and she was in the Greens at that point before she moved to the crossbench,” he said.

“That outcome was to the satisfaction of Senator Thorpe and the Greens’ leadership team as I’m advised.”

Speaking to ABC RN Breakfast on Friday morning, Thorpe said she had been demonised for speaking out.

Queensland senator Amanda Stoker alleges David Van inappropriately touched her.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

“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 example of the media landscape in this country, and that is systemic racism,” Thorpe said.

Tasmanian Liberal MP Bridget Archer told RN Breakfast the “really toxic” commentary occurring in parliament and the media this week would dissuade women from coming forward with sexual assault allegations of their own.

“They’re sort of turning these issues into political footballs,” she said.

If you or anyone you know needs support, you can contact the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732), Lifeline 131 114, or Beyond Blue 1300 224 636.

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