Australian Senator Asked To Resign Over Sexual Harassment Allegations

Image Source: The Advertiser

Australia’s prominent opposition leader asked a senator to resign on Friday following allegations of sexual misconduct against him by female senators, which he has denied. The accusations against Liberal Party Senator David Van follow numerous previous complaints about the culture in Australia’s parliament house, which led to an inquiry in 2021 that found one in three people working there had experienced sexual harassment.

A parliamentary workplace authority is investigating the allegations against Van, who was removed from the Liberal Party leadership after the claims surfaced. He also faces pressure from the Victorian branch of the Liberal Party to resign, with the party to consider his future at an urgent meeting this weekend.

The latest allegation against him comes from independent senator Lidia Thorpe, who claimed on Thursday that she had been harassed by Van in 2020. She claimed she was followed and cornered in a stairwell before being “aggressively propositioned” and inappropriately touched. She later withdrew the claims to comply with Senate rules prohibiting attacking a colleague’s character.

Dutton and the party’s deputy leader, Sussan Ley, have called for Van to resign, and several other MPs joined them in backing their calls. Ley is the party’s spokesperson for women, and her office said she “supports the strong words and actions of the leader in dealing with this grave matter.”

The accusations against Van are the latest scandals to rock Australian politics. The saga started in 2019 with a staffer’s allegation that her colleague had raped her while drinking at work in a minister’s office. The staffer’s allegations sparked widespread outrage over the culture in the national legislature, and the then-conservative government apologized last year for treating her rape as nothing more than a political problem.

Several former lawmakers have faced allegations of sexual misconduct, including a prominent member of parliament who was arrested for allegedly assaulting his colleague in the house and a media company that was sued for publishing an article that appeared to accuse a journalist of raping Ms. Higgins. But the case of Ms. Higgins has been particularly significant, and her family says they have received messages of support from around the world. The case was eventually dropped due to juror misconduct, but Ms. Higgins’ lawyer said the accusations against her had “changed her life.” Ms. Higgins has since spoken out about her experience. During her remarks to the media on Thursday, she called for a focus on “how we treat each other and how we are treated.” Her statement was met with cheers and applause from members of both sides of the chamber. Ms. Higgins was elected to the federal parliament in 2015 and is a member of the Liberal Party. She represents the electorate of South Melbourne. Her sexual assault allegation has been referred to the parliamentary workplace support services.

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