Greens lawyers told me to say I dated bikie: Thorpe
Victorian senator Lidia Thorpe says she was mauled by the media and forced to admit she had a relationship with a former bikie when the pair only shared one kiss.
The former Greens senator, now an independent, was referred to the Senate's privileges committee over allegations she failed to disclose a relationship with a former bikie despite sitting on a parliamentary law enforcement committee.
Senator Thorpe said she actually had no relationship with ex-bikie boss Dean Martin but was told by Greens legal advisers to say they dated.
She previously said it was a mistake to not have disclosed the relationship but changed her tune on Tuesday.
"I had no relationship with that person. I was given legal advice by the Greens lawyer to say that I had dated this person," she told the Senate.
"I got a call from that person that said, 'ah, did we date?'.
"We kissed once at a rally on the 26th of January. I had no idea who this person was or his background."
The privileges committee examined whether Senator Thorpe's alleged non-disclosure obstructed the work of the committee or if she had received confidential briefings related to bikies.
It found that while Senator Thorpe should have disclosed her relationship, she didn't receive any relevant sensitive information and therefore shouldn't be held in contempt.
"The committee emphasises the need for senators to be aware of their responsibilities to perform their roles in the public interest (and) to declare any possible conflicts," the report said.
A teary Senator Thorpe said the committee's recommendation that she not be held in contempt vindicated her.
"All you people thought that I had been running off with some biker gang," she said.
"What kind of person do you think I am? I deserve an apology, from the leader of the Greens for one, because I lost my position."
But a representative for Mr Bandt said he understood the facts as they were set out by Senator Thorpe in her letter to the committee's inquiry.
"The information in the letter is consistent with the information Senator Thorpe and others provided to us," the representative said.
Mr Bandt's office said Senator Thorpe spoke to the lawyers and decided on the term "briefly dated", which she used to describe her relationship in her evidence to the committee.
"Dean Martin and I met through Blak activism and briefly dated," she wrote.
"Specifically, we met on 26 January 2021 at an Invasion Day rally and dated in March 2021.
"Since then, we have remained friends and have collaborated on our shared interest: advocating for the rights of First Nations people."
Senator Thorpe resigned from her leadership role with the party after the story broke in the media.
"For what? For a kiss on invasion day with some black man at a rally who happened to be an ex-biker," she then told the Senate after the report was tabled.
"I didn't ask for his resume."
Senator Thorpe said she referred herself to the committee because she knew she had done nothing wrong.
"But my family and my community were hurting from the racism," she said.
"I got mauled by the media, I got mauled by all of you in (the Senate) for something I did not do."
The privileges committee has recommended declarations of any conflicts of interest should be handled consistently when committees meet to avoid future issues.
It said senators should recuse themselves when a conflict of interest arises in line with the standing orders.
"Transparency in relation to such matters serves to resolve most issues and is critical to maintaining the confidence of submitters and witnesses in the integrity of committee proceedings," the report said.