Controversial Greens senator Lidia Thorpe has resigned as the party’s deputy leader in the Senate, after admitting to a ‘brief’ romance with a Rebels bikie boss who is the uncle of AFL star Dustin Martin.
In what her leader Adam Bandt said was ‘an error of judgement’, Ms Thorpe on Thursday revealed she met Dean Martin, the ex-president of the Rebels Victoria chapter, through the ‘Blak activism’ group and they dated in early 2021.
‘We remain friends and have collaborated on our shared interests advocating for the rights of First Nations peoples,’ she told the ABC in a statement on Thursday afternoon.
Hours later, she had quit from her senior role in the party – although she remains a member of Parliament.
Ms Thorpe’s relationship with Martin came to light after reports her staff had expressed concern about the relationship, given she sat on a joint parliamentary law enforcement committee.
That committee heard confidential briefings about outlaw motorcycle gangs.
Ms Thorpe said she met Dean Martin, the ex-president of the Rebels Victoria chapter, through the ‘Blak activism’ group and they dated in early 2021
Martin stepped down as president of the Rebels Victoria chapter in 2018 after his brother, Dustin Martin’s father Shane, was deported to New Zealand over his bikie links
In her resignation, Ms Thorpe said in a statement that she had ‘made mistakes’ and ‘not exercised good judgement’.
‘I will now reflect on this and focus on my important portfolio work, especially advocating for First Nations people,’ she said.
In a press conference on Thursday, a visibly angry Mr Bandt said he had asked Senator Thorpe to resign from he Greens leadership team.
‘As a leader I expect my senators and MPs, especially those in leadership positions, to exercise good judgement,’ Mr Bandt said.
‘At a minimum, Senator Thorpe needed to disclose to me her connection to Mr Martin and her failure to do so showed a significant lack of judgement.
‘I have spoken to Senator Thorpe, and she has told me that at no stage was there any breach of the rules regarding those committees or her work, no sharing of confidential information, and to date no-one has suggested otherwise.
‘But that is not enough. It was clear that this could be perceived as affecting her work and her failure to disclose that, at the very least, to me was an error of judgement.’
The ABC reported that Ms Thorpe had failed to tell Mr Bandt about the relationship despite staff urging her to do so.
He only became aware once questions were asked about it. Fearing perceptions of a conflict of interest, staff members reported concerns about the relationship to the Parliamentary Workplace Support Service, an independent authority with an ambit to investigate workplace incidents at Parliament House.
Ms Thorpe’s staff feared her brief relationship with former Rebels boss Dean Martin would create perception of a conflict of interest with her position on a parliamentary law enforcement committee hearing evidence on outlaw motorcycle gangs
The committee of which Ms Thorpe was a member heard evidence about bikie gangs as part of an inquiry into the trading of illicit drugs online. Her membership of the committee ended earlier this year.
Lidia Thorpe gave a black power salute as she was sworn into the Senate in August
‘Obviously, I’m concerned about the criminal activities of outlaw motorcycle clubs in general. But when we met, Mr Martin was no longer involved with that world,’ the senator told the ABC.
She said she at all times treated documents provided to the committee in confidence.
Martin stepped down as president of the Rebels Victoria chapter in 2018 after his brother, Dustin Martin’s father Shane, was deported to New Zealand over his bikie links. He has no criminal convictions.
It’s understood Ms Thorpe disclosed the relationship to two different members of her staff in May and June last year, with one of them confronting her about it in August 2021.
The staffer had noted that confidential documents on how the Australian Federal Police monitors outlaw motorcycle gangs arrived in Ms Thorpe’s Melbourne office only hours after she had met with Martin in a park, the ABC reported.
The staff member later wrote in a work diary: ‘My advice to Senator is that she must speak to leader’s office, that she is at extreme risk of being extorted, particularly if someone finds out.’
Read Lidia Thorpe’s statement in full about secret relationship
Greens leader Adam Bandt has requested by resignation as Deputy Leader in the Senate and I have given him my resignation.
I accept that I have made mistakes and have not exercised good judgement.
I will now request on this and focus on my important portfolio work, especially advocating for First Nations people.
Ms Thorpe recently drew unfavourable attention after it was alleged she unleashed a furious rant at First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria co-chairs Marcus Stewart and Aunty Geraldine Atkinson at a committee room meeting in Parliament House on June 22, 2021.
It was claimed Ms Atkinson, who is aged in her 70s, was so shaken by Senator Thorpe’s behaviour she sought assistance from the parliamentary nurse after the meeting.
Ms Thorpe’s former chief of staff, David Mejia-Canales, who was at the meeting, later apologised for not ending it sooner after Senator Thorpe’s ‘appalling’ behaviour.
‘The conduct that I witnessed at that meeting was by far one of the most unprofessional displays I have ever seen, not just during the length of my career, but in my life,’ Mr Mejia-Canales said in the email, reported in The Sydney Morning Herald.