Independent senator Lidia Thorpe has alleged that she quit the Greens because she was bullied and undermined by several of her party room colleagues, saying she lodged a written complaint about her treatment with leader Adam Bandt and the parliament’s workplace misconduct support service last year.
The Aboriginal Victorian senator split from the Greens last month and moved to the crossbench to lead a black sovereignty movement as an independent, claiming at the time she wanted to speak freely on issues without being constrained by party positions.
Thorpe’s defection came after months of ongoing divisions with her colleagues over the Greens’ position on the Voice to parliament – a proposal which she had heavily criticised as the party’s First Nations spokeswoman while her fellow MPs were eager to support it.
But in an interview on Thursday that ends the understanding between Thorpe and Bandt not to discuss the circumstances around her exit, Thorpe said differences over the referendum were not the key reason for her departure, alleging that she quit because a number of Greens senators had “caused a lot of harm” to her.
She declined to name the senators or how many were involved, citing an ongoing formal complaints process.
“I didn’t leave over the referendum. I left over irreconcilable differences,” Thorpe said.
She said she detailed the allegations in a formal written complaint in the second half of 2022 to Bandt and the Parliamentary Workplace Support Service, an independent office that handles complaints about workplace misconduct or conflict.
“There’s a few senators within the Greens who undermined me and hurt me and I’ve had to report that to PWSS,” Thorpe said.
“I raised it with the Greens. I raised it with the leader. I said ‘I can’t deal with this any more. I’m being undermined. I’m being bullied. And it’s got to stop.’ It didn’t stop,” Thorpe said.
The crossbench senator said she had not heard back from the support service since lodging the complaint.
A spokesperson for Bandt confirmed the leader was aware of Thorpe’s complaints, but rejected her assertions they constituted bullying. Bandt’s spokesperson confirmed he and Thorpe remained friends and had a working relationship.
“Mr Bandt worked with Senator Thorpe on the issues she raised including arranging an opportunity to have her concerns addressed through PWSS mediation, but Senator Thorpe left the Greens before mediation occurred,” the spokesperson said.
“We do not accept that the issues raised by Senator Thorpe constituted bullying.”
In response to a written question about whether Bandt accepted Thorpe’s claims that she quit the party over her treatment by her colleagues and the lack of support she received from the party, the spokesperson said “no” but did not elaborate.
A spokesperson for the PWSS said it was a confidential service and did not comment on whether it has had involvement in workplace matters.
Thorpe’s allegations of mistreatment come days after she used a speech in the Senate to claim she had been pressured by the party into falsely admitting in written evidence to a parliamentary inquiry she had “briefly dated” former bikie boss Dean Martin, insisting they had only shared one kiss and were just friends.
In a report tabled in the Senate on Thursday, the privileges committee cleared her of contempt over allegations she failed to disclose the relationship despite sitting on a parliamentary law enforcement committee.
“I was told to say I ‘dated’ [him]. I really fought hard to not say that because it’s not true,” Thorpe said.
“The leader’s office helped with that letter. It had to go through the lawyers … and yes, I approved that letter because I thought I was doing the right thing by the Greens.”
Bandt’s spokesperson said the Greens leader stood by his view that the letter was consistent with the information Thorpe and others provided his office.
Thorpe said she had not spoken to Bandt since her remarks in the Senate, but insisted their relationship had not broken down.
“My relationship with the leader of the Greens, as far as I’m concerned, is still good,” she said.
”I have a lot of good relationships within the Greens and I would say most of the Greens senators, but there’s a couple of people that I’ll refuse to communicate with from now on.“
She said she intended to stand by her exit agreement with the Greens to vote with them on climate-related bills, clarifying that this did not extend to environment or water issues.
“That was the agreement that I had made, and I don’t at this stage have any plans to go back on that,” she said.
There were signs of internal tension before Thorpe’s decision to quit the party in February, including revelations she demanded that none of her fellow Greens MPs, including another Indigenous senator, meet Indigenous community members about the Voice to parliament.
Within hours of Thorpe’s departure, the Greens party room resolved to officially back the Yes campaign.
While Bandt has repeatedly professed to be saddened by Thorpe’s decision to quit, other Greens MPs and members have privately welcomed her exit after a string of controversies involving the Victorian senator.
Bandt came under pressure last year for failing to respond properly to a complaint by an Aboriginal elder who alleged she was made physically ill when she was verbally abused by Thorpe during a meeting in Parliament House last year. As revealed by this masthead, Thorpe’s former chief of staff described her behaviour among the most unprofessional conduct he has ever witnessed. Thorpe disputed the claims at the time, saying the meeting involved a “robust discussion”.
( Information from politico.com was used in this report. Also if you have any problem of this article or if you need to remove this articles, please email here and we will delete this immediately. [email protected] )