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"Completely unacceptable": Marshall awaits inquiry on backbencher's conduct


Premier Steven Marshall has refused to back embattled Liberal MP Sam Duluk, withholding his crucial support until the outcome of an investigation into allegations of misconduct.

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Right-winger Duluk, the member for Waite in the inner southern suburbs, has been under fire since allegations surfaced last week that he behaved inappropriately at a crossbench-hosted Christmas function at parliament house on December 13, including slapping SA Best MLC Connie Bonaros on the behind and sending her unwanted text messages.

Two other alleged incidents, understood to have involved behaviour towards parliament house employees, are reportedly being investigated as part of an ongoing review by Speaker Vincent Tarzia.

Duluk publicly apologised to Bonaros “and anyone else who was offended by my actions” on Saturday, and has stepped down from his role as chair of parliament’s Economic and Finance Committee, a position understood to earn $34,000 a year.

But the Opposition today called on an independent investigation in light of the new allegations, demanding Duluk stand down from all parliamentary duties in the meantime.

That would see the Government’s majority on the floor of the House of Assembly dwindle to 23, without the Speaker, which would prevent the suspension of standing orders.

Asked today whether Duluk still had his support, Marshall told reporters: “Look let’s just see what comes from this investigation.”

“I’ve made it very clear from day one that this behaviour is completely unacceptable – it cannot be tolerated in the SA parliament,” he said.

“There’s a process that’s underway [but] he has paid a penalty.”

Marshall said he “was made aware of this issue, which occurred at parliament house late last year, when it occurred” and he immediately instructed Duluk to apologise.

Asked whether he was aware of the two other alleged complaints, Marshall said: “My understanding from day one was there were various people who might have taken offence.”

“I think [Duluk] genuinely regrets his actions,” he said.

“He deeply regrets any offence that was caused from his actions… but there is a further process underway.

“All I would say is there have got to be consequences for this type of behaviour… now he’s suffered a very serious penalty and there’s a further investigation underway.

“I think he’s paid the price for it in terms of the financial penalty, and a very serious reputational penalty for what’s occurred.”

Duluk did not respond to inquiries today.

He has been frequently linked to a cabinet elevation, but Marshall would not be drawn on the prospect of that today, saying only he did not intend to reshuffle his frontbench in the near future.

Tarzia has confirmed his investigation, telling media: “Near the end of December I was made aware of allegations concerning the conduct of a Member of the House of Assembly towards other people, including a Member of the Legislative Council, at a Christmas function held in Parliament House.”

“On becoming aware of the allegations, I arranged for preliminary inquiries to be undertaken to ascertain the circumstances surrounding the alleged inappropriate behaviour.

“I am currently seeking further advice as part of investigating this matter. Last week (Friday) we also contacted the office of the Commissioner for Equal Opportunity,” he said.

But Opposition spokesman Tom Koutsantonis said an inquiry run by a Liberal member was “completely unacceptable”.

“The fact that a Liberal MP… behaved appallingly means there has to be an independent inquiry,” he said, adding “Mr Duluk should not attend parliament” in the meantime.

He said “the only reason the Premier would say no” to an independent inquiry “is to protect his majority”.

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