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Private investigator to lead Duluk inquiry

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An Adelaide private investigator has been appointed to inquire into allegations Liberal MP Sam Duluk acted inappropriately towards several people at a parliamentary Christmas party last year.

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A short time ago, Speaker of the House of Assembly and Liberal MP Vincent Tarzia announced that he had appointed an independent investigator to lead a confidential investigation into Duluk’s conduct.

InDaily understands the investigator is Paul Hocking, a licensed inquiry agent of Reynella-based Quark and Associates.

Hocking is a private investigator of 24 years’ experience working on inquiries and surveillance in South Australia and interstate, and a former senior detective with the Northern Territory Police Force, according to the agency’s website.

Early this month, allegations surfaced that Duluk had behaved inappropriately at a crossbench-hosted Christmas function at parliament house in mid-December, including slapping SA Best MLC Connie Bonaros on the behind and sending her unwanted text messages.

There are also allegations Duluk was involved in two other incidents, understood to have involved behaviour towards parliament house employees.

Tarzia released a statement to the media a short time ago, saying: “On becoming aware of allegations concerning inappropriate conduct within the parliamentary precinct by Mr Duluk, the Member for Waite and after receiving further advice, I have engaged an independent investigator to inquire into the alleged behaviour of Mr Duluk.”

“The individual undertaking the independent investigation is a licenced inquiry agent from the private sector who has considerable experience, including experience undertaking confidential investigations dealing with complaints made within the public sector,” the statement reads.

“The scope of the independent investigator’s inquiries will be to endeavour to obtain full particulars as to what took place concerning the alleged conduct of Mr Duluk and to provide a report for the Speaker’s consideration.”

Tarzia said the inquiry would be confidential and that he expected it to be completed within four weeks.

“Given the independent investigation is now underway, I do not propose to provide any further comment at this time,” he added.

Duluk has publicly apologised to Bonaros “and anyone else who was offended by my actions”, and resigned from all parliamentary committee roles.

He has also said he will seek counselling over his alcohol use.

Greens Legislative Councillor Tammy Franks had last week wrote to the parliament’s most senior representatives – including Premier Steven Marshall, Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas, Speaker Vincent Tarzia and Upper House president Andrew McLachlan – requesting Duluk’s removal from parliamentary committee they sit on together because of ongoing tensions stemming from his alleged actions at the event.

In response to questions from InDaily about Franks’ letter, Duluk released a statement saying: “Having attended Christmas functions on the afternoon and evening of 13 December at which I had consumed alcohol, I made an error of judgment in choosing to join a number of my parliamentary colleagues for Christmas drinks at Parliament House late that night and engaged in behaviour which was unacceptable on any view.”

“I deeply regret that my behaviour caused offence and distress to others,” he said.

“I subsequently conveyed my personal apologies to those concerned, including [SA Best MLC Connie] Bonaros and Ms Franks.

“I am embarrassed by the incident. I am embarrassed to think that others might consider my behaviour on that evening is consistent with my character and values, which it was not.

“The incident has caused me to recognise that I should seek professional help in relation to alcohol use and I am doing so.”

Franks, who was at the party but did not witness that alleged incident, asserts in her letter that “my own observation of certain offensive behaviours” led to her “demanding on that night that he cease these offensive behaviours… and asserting that he was not even invited to the event so that he should leave”.

“Among many other things, he had stormed into the space flanked by at least one other man and I had observed him lean over and lift a tub chair with Ms Bonaros still in it front on which I did not interpret to be something she was comfortable with,” she alleged.

She noted her actions were prompted by “visual cues” including other attendees’ “distressed body language”, but “not upon what I had heard”.

“The ensuing discussion on the night between he and I became quite heated,” she wrote in the letter, which has been obtained by InDaily.

“He challenged me ‘don’t be like that’ and asserted that he was my ‘neighbour’ in [parliament’s lower ground office] corridor and that according to him I ‘walk past his office everyday’ so he should therefore be allowed to remain at the drinks event,” she wrote.

Franks acknowledged Duluk called her “on the morning of December 19… to apologise for his behaviours” at the event.

“At the time I accepted his apology to me on face value [and] we also spoke of his need to apologise to others,” she writes.

However, after subsequent discussions with fellow attendees she aired further claims of comments allegedly made by the Waite MP to a staff member at the event. InDaily has chosen not to publish the alleged comments, but Franks said hearing the account “both disgusts and repulses me”.

Equal Opportunity Commissioner Niki Vincent, whose office had discussed the appointment of an independent investigator with the Clerk of the House, last week said she had “no idea of what’s going on” with the inquiry and that: “I’d say I would have been if it was going to be that I was asked [to conduct it].”

Treasurer Rob Lucas said any funding for an inquiry would come from the House of Assembly’s own independent allocation.

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