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Duluk to run as an independent

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Embattled ex-Liberal MP Sam Duluk has declared he will run as an independent at the March election, hours after extraordinary new claims against him were aired in state parliament.

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The fresh claims against him were aired last night in a speech made under parliamentary privilege by Greens MLC Tammy Franks, who made previously unreported allegations about the Waite MP’s behaviour at two concurrent parliament house functions in December 2019.

Franks detailed claims of sexist, homophobic and racist comments as well as lewd behaviour, in a speech denounced as an “outrageous attack” by the Waite MP.

She also used the speech to implicate another unnamed MP and a Liberal staffer in unsavoury acts that allegedly took place at a Liberal Party Christmas event on the same night.

Premier Steven Marshall and the Liberal Party state executive had been under intense pressure over how to deal with Duluk, who was last month acquitted of basic assault against SA Best MLC Connie Bonaros, an allegation stemming from an incident in which he touched her bottom at the parliament house corridor party.

But in a statement delivered to parliament this morning, Duluk took the matter out of their hands, confirming he would run for his southern suburbs seat of Waite as a “true Liberal” independent.

“The last 20 months have taken a significant toll on my family, my health and my wellbeing,” he said.

“I need this to stop.

“I want to give the parliament the dignity that it deserves and more importantly, I want to focus 100 per cent of my energy and commitment to serving the people of Waite.

“Therefore, I announce that I will be running as an Independent at the next State Election.”

Duluk said he would be running “on a platform of true Liberal values, appropriate fiscal management, protecting heritage and preserving our environment”.

“And I will continue to work on our timetable to fix local infrastructure, invest in sporting clubs, community groups and emergency services,” he said.

The move will still have significant ramifications for the Liberal Party, with the vast majority of Duluk’s Waite branch understood to have strongly backed him as their MP.

Many local members are expected to support his campaign, which will also drag votes from the endorsed Liberal candidate.

But after Duluk’s Right faction failed to garner a majority on the party’s ruling state executive at the weekend’s AGM, he was unlikely to have the support to gain endorsement for Liberal preselection.

Franks also detailed a range of allegations about Duluk’s behaviour at the corridor drinks event that she co-hosted with Bonaros, which she said the Waite MP “crashed” after following a Liberal female staff member downstairs from the party function on the first floor.

The staffer, she said, “appeared to be in some haste to reach her office and escape him [and] when she got to that corner office she slammed the door behind her”.

Franks suggested she was moved to detail the allegations because they would no longer be recorded by the shuttered Speaker’s investigation, saying: “So let us put on record some of what I understand are the actions which the Speaker’s inquiry will no longer hear.”

These included Duluk participating in a game of charades with two young staffers, during which he allegedly thrust his hand towards his groin, “standing right near their heads, and reflecting the ‘grab ’em by the pussy’ gesture that we know to be associated with former president of the United States [Donald Trump]”.

Franks also detailed homophobic remarks allegedly directed against a male parliament house worker, claiming Duluk said behind the man’s back: ‘Best not walk too fast and get ahead of him or we might get f….. up the a…’

She claimed he “stood over and threatened” a woman who had taken a photo of him “drinking spirits straight from the bottle”, and made “racist remarks” about another MP, alleging he said of one parliamentarian: ‘He is not a real Aboriginal. My grandmother was raped in Mildura so maybe I am part Aboriginal.’

Franks said Duluk asked another staff member “if she was having sex with me [Franks] and further asked that worker if myself and this woman were lesbians”.

“He said to a woman in this workplace – our workplace, her workplace – ‘You’ve got big… a cuss-word for breasts’… then he said, ‘I’d like to… a word starting with F, with four letters… them’,” she claimed.

“He said to a woman in this workplace – our workplace and her workplace – ‘I know you’re F-ing him so you can F*** me too.’

“And when his advances were declined, he said to a woman in this workplace – our workplace and her workplace – ‘I might not F*** you tonight but I will F*** you,’ as he departed.”

She claimed much of the behaviour was witnessed by “quite a few other Liberal staff members” who had migrated to the lower ground party.

“They looked on. They knew. They were asked by us, as staff, to perhaps advise him to leave, to calm down, to settle down,” she said.

“There were four or five who were asked and the response from all of them was to shirk that responsibility. “As one of them put it,  ‘He’s not in my faction. I hope he’s dead in the toilet.’”

Duluk, however, hit back strongly at Franks’ claims – although he did not address the specific allegations made under privilege.

However, he did argue against Franks making them under cover of parliament.

“This afternoon, I was the subject of outrageous claims by the Hon. Tammy Franks MLC in a speech made under parliamentary privilege in the Upper House,” he said in a statement last night.

“The statements made by Ms Franks, a long-term political adversary, are salacious and designed to cause maximum political damage.

“I am astonished that Ms Franks considered it appropriate to exploit parliamentary privilege to attempt to destroy my character and I invite her to make these assertions without the protection of parliamentary privilege.”

Duluk said he had been “accused of assault and found not guilty in a Court of Law because Ms Bonaros’ detailed account of that alleged assault could not be considered credible and reliable given that the sole eye-witness she suggested had observed it, and would corroborate it, directly contradicted each and every element of it”.

“I am disappointed that after the conclusion of the legal proceedings and my acquittal, as well as the Speaker’s decision to not proceed with a Parliamentary Inquiry, my political opponents seek to exploit this matter,” Duluk said.

A spokesman for Premier Steven Marshall last night said only that he “maintains his position that [Duluk’s] behaviour was offensive and unacceptable”.

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