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MPs, staffer implicated in vile behaviour as Duluk allegations escalate

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Parliamentary processes for handling serious workplace harassment have been again thrust into the spotlight amid new claims about the events at a Liberal Party function in which women were allegedly subjected to lewd or abusive behaviour from multiple MPs and their staff – with subsequent complaints all-but ignored.

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The claims centre around several new allegations – many of them second or third hand – made under parliamentary privilege yesterday by Greens MLC Tammy Franks against embattled Liberal exile Sam Duluk.

However the Waite MP hit back, calling Franks “a long-term political adversary” using “salacious” claims “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,” he said.

Duluk, who has suspended his party membership since he was charged, 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 a parliament house corridor Christmas party in December 2019.

The event – and numerous claims about his behaviour – prompted former Speaker Vincent Tarzia to establish an independent investigation into what occurred, but current Speaker Josh Teague this week ruled that the stalled inquiry would not recommence.

That decision prompted Franks to break her silence in an extraordinary speech late yesterday, in which she told parliament of several previously-undisclosed allegations about Duluk’s behaviour on the night – much of it centred around a concurrent Liberal Party Christmas function held elsewhere in parliament house.

“That bad behaviour also happened at the Liberal Christmas party event,” she said under privilege in the Legislative Council.

“That these have not yet surfaced in the media, and that attempts have been made to urge party processes to address what I would describe as unlawful and unacceptable behaviour is, indeed, deeply distressing.”

Franks said she had “heard various accounts of just what went on at the Liberal Party party that night”.

“I believe that there is a video of the Member for Waite calling a female staff member a ‘frigid bitch’,” she said.

“I believe that a staffer who was accompanying, and with, the Member for Waite at the time urinated in a corner of an MP’s office before turning around with his penis still exposed, waving his appendage into the breeze with his arms in the air, calling out: ‘Touch it, touch it.’”

Franks also alleged that a case study detailed in a damning Equal Opportunity Commissioner’s report into harassment in the SA parliamentary workplace, published in March, referred directly to the Liberal Party Christmas function, saying: “That complaint originated from this evening and the member for Waite’s behaviours.”

The case study detailed “multiple alleged matters involving sexual harassment and assault” with “the alleged incidents occurring at a work social function”. “One matter involved alleged (low level) sexual harassment by two Members of Parliament that then escalated to alleged sexual assault by one Member of Parliament,” the Commissioner’s report read.

“Separately, another incident of alleged sexual harassment occurred that was conducted by a staff member towards the victim (and others).

“The alleged incidents were reported by the victim to several sources. This included immediately or soon after the incident.

“The Review was told that the victim reported the matter to colleagues, then over the following weeks and months to senior leadership of the political party, the relevant Presiding Officer, and two leadership positions in the public service.

“The Review was told that the response to the victim from colleagues was ‘you’ll be a rat if you say anything’ and ‘you don’t report MPs’, interpreted by the victim to mean ‘put up with it and don’t stir up trouble’.

“The response from the party was to present the option of reporting to police and offer strategies to avoid contact with the harasser.

“The victim felt the party otherwise sought to manage it within a closed circle with minimal information shared with the victim. This was perceived by the victim as a focus on managing the matter to prevent fall-out or minimise disruption to the party and political process.”

The report stated the victim “considered all these responses as inappropriate and absent of any process”.

“In raising the incidents, the victim wanted an internal investigation process that acknowledged what had occurred and the impacts on her, management/ investigation with a level of independence, protection of her integrity, career and privacy and that appropriate consequences be applied to the harassers,” the report found.

“The victim reported to the Review that none of these outcomes were achieved.”

Franks noted that “with the ending of the Speaker’s Inquiry, this matter and those victims now have nowhere to go”.

“The parliamentary processes have failed them,” she said.

“The party processes are all they have left but, to my mind so far, they have also failed.”

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.’”

Franks said “we have all had to come into this place for the last 90-plus weeks having been humiliated and harangued over a sustained period of time on that evening and, indeed, let down by the parliamentary and political processes since”.

Duluk, however, hit back strongly – 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.

Premier Steven Marshall had already been under intense pressure to decide whether Duluk would be readmitted to the Liberal party-room and preselected to run again in Waite, and had previously flagged that he had spoken to Franks before her speech about the matter.

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

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