Lidia Thorpe quits as Greens deputy Senate leader over undisclosed relationship with ex-bikie boss

Lidia Thorpe has resigned as Greens deputy Senate leader over what party leader Adam Bandt has labelled a “significant error of judgment”, following revelations she did not disclose her relationship with a former bikie leader.

Bandt asked for her resignation after two former staffers to Thorpe said they had raised concerns with his office about the relationship with former Rebels bikie president Dean Martin, which took place while she was a member of the joint parliamentary law enforcement committee in 2021.

Lidia Thorpe’s undisclosed relationship with an ex-bikie boss alarmed her staff.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

That committee has received confidential briefings in the past about bikie gangs and organised crime, which prompted concerns about a potential conflict of interest. This masthead does not suggest Thorpe shared any confidential information with any person not authorised to receive it.

“As a leader, I expect my senators and MPs, especially those in leadership positions, to exercise good judgment. At a minimum, Senator Thorpe needed to disclose … her connection to Mr Martin and her failure to do so showed a significant lack of judgment,” Bandt said at a press conference in Melbourne on Thursday afternoon.

“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 judgment.”

Bandt said he had asked to meet with the Australian Federal Police to find out if they had “any concerns with respect to disclosure of information, but to be clear, at the moment … no one is suggesting that that happened”.

In a statement released during the press conference, Thorpe said Bandt had “requested my 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 judgment”.

“I will now reflect on this and focus on my important portfolio work, especially advocating for First Nations people.”

The Greens party room met on Thursday afternoon and backed Bandt’s decision to remove her from the deputy leadership role. Thorpe will remain in parliament and continue to hold the First Nations portfolio for the Greens.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese described the revelations relating to Thorpe as “concerning”.

“I note that Senator Thorpe has said that this is an error of judgment. That’s the least description that I would put to it and Mr Bandt has to explain what his office knew and what he knew and if he wasn’t informed about these issues, given his office was informed, why that’s the case,” Albanese said.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton called on Thorpe to resign as an MP.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in my 20 years in parliament. It’s clear that Senator Thorpe is not fit to be in the Australian parliament,” he said, describing the incident as “a test of leadership for Adam Bandt”.

This masthead has spoken to one of the two former staffers for Thorpe, who agreed to discuss the issue on the condition of anonymity, and has signed a statutory declaration confirming that Thorpe disclosed the relationship to them in May 2021.

Both staffers urged Thorpe to speak to Bandt about the relationship at the time but were rejected and then one of them raised their concerns with Bandt’s office but the issue was not escalated to the party leader.

Former Rebels’ bikie boss Dean Martin.Credit:Jesse Marlow

Bandt said that he had not been made aware of the relationship until he was contacted recently by the media.

“I expect that I should have been told about this and I have made that clear to my chief of staff and I have counselled him,” Bandt said.

One Greens MP, who spoke anonymously, said the revelations were a “train wreck” and that while some in the party believed Thorpe should move to the crossbench, this was unlikely to happen.

Anthony Whealy, chair of The Centre for Public Integrity and a former judge of the NSW Court of Appeal, said Thorpe should have, at a minimum, disclosed the relationship with Martin to avoid either a conflict of interest or the perception of one while serving on the law enforcement committee.

“During the time that Ms Thorpe was on that committee, in my opinion, it was totally inappropriate for her to have a relationship with Mr Martin without making full disclosure of it,” Whealy said.

But the better step, he said, would have been for Thorpe to have resigned from the committee given she was likely to receive sensitive materials from the AFP, and to have informed Bandt of her reasons for doing so.

“The public need to be absolutely confident in senators on committees and their members of parliament, and without that confidence, it has a deleterious effect on our democratic institutions,” he said.

The ABC reported that Thorpe confirmed she “briefly dated” Martin, who has no criminal convictions but was associated with the Rebels for 25 years.

This masthead does not suggest he has any continuing association with the Rebels. He stepped down in 2018 as president after his brother, Shane Martin, the father of Richmond star Dusty Martin, was deported to New Zealand.

This masthead revealed last month that Thorpe had been accused of verbally abusing Indigenous elder Aunty Geraldine Atkinson during a meeting in parliament house in 2021.

Thorpe’s former chief-of-staff wrote to Atkinson this year to apologise for the way the meeting unfolded, saying the senator’s behaviour had left him “scared and in shock” and describing it as among the most unprofessional conduct he had ever witnessed.

On Thursday, Bandt addressed the concerns raised by Atkinson, saying the party had improved the way it managed complaints about MPs.

But he noted more changes might need to be implemented and acknowledged it was unsatisfactory that some people who made complaints did not hear back for long periods of time.

“I want to assure the people who made the complaint, but also everyone else, that complaints made to us are treated seriously [and] looked at independently,” he said.

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