Motion on Suspension of Speaker’s Inquiry

In Parliament, Motions

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:58): I move:

That this council notes that the Speaker’s inquiry into the end of year corridor events on and around 13 December 2019 have now been suspended for well over a year.

I move this motion standing in my name and I do so wishing it had not come to this. We now know in fact that the Speaker’s inquiry into those events has not just been suspended but indeed ended. I note that yesterday in the other place the Speaker made a statement, and unfortunately this motion became far more pressing. I gave notice of it in the last sitting week and yet it has come to be that the Speaker’s inquiry into the events of and around 13 December 2019 have now been permanently suspended.

I participated in the process of that inquiry in good faith and I commence my remarks by thanking the private investigator, Paul Hocking, for ensuring that I have had my memory refreshed in the last 24 hours by receiving my 29-page record of interview with Mr Hocking of Quark and Associates that I undertook on 4 February 2020.

At the end of that interview, which lasted just under an hour, I clearly remember the last words he said to me after he had turned off the recording. He lent back in his chair and sighed and said the words, ‘In any other job it would be “Don’t come back Monday”.’ But, of course, the member for Waite, Sam Duluk, did get to come back on Monday, and he has come back every Monday ever since. He gets to come back for some 90-plus or so Mondays since this event and, at this stage, he will work another many Mondays, some 30 or so at least, as a representative of the people of Waite.

And yet, this workplace has also gone through all of those Mondays and Tuesdays and Wednesdays and Thursdays and Fridays in this building and, indeed, for those of us who work weekends—those functions and other events. The member for Waite represents good, decent people. In fact, some of those people are my friends, my acquaintances and even my usually Liberal-voting family, as well as the Hon. Frank Pangallo.

While sexual harassment under any circumstances can wreak havoc on a victim’s health, workplace sexual harassment is a special kind of ugly. It is an ugly that Nannina Angioni, who is a labour and law employment attorney, has called, ‘A slithering snake that ripples its way through a work environment causing disastrous results.’

I note in recent weeks that the ABC building in Collinswood has had a rogue snake in the building. There has been much mirth and people are fearful of entering the ABC building. It only lasted about two days. Imagine the 20 months that workers in this place have had to endure with this slithering snake in our workplace. For the last 20 months that metaphorical slithering snake has been here in this building in North Terrace.

In this workplace, an experience of sexual harassment, which we know from the literature and many of us from our own experiences, can trigger symptoms of depression or anxiety, they can exacerbate a previous condition and they can cause trauma. One of the many things that I had hoped might come from this Speaker’s inquiry was the ability for that trauma, that anxiety and those impacts to be addressed. Of course, I also hoped that the member for Waite, Sam Duluk MP, might reflect on the impact of his actions given the evidence that would be presented to him by the private investigator for a response.

On the night of the Liberal and crossbench end of year functions and beyond those events in the following weeks and then months, I had hoped that the Speaker’s inquiry might see that reflection. Indeed, I know that the member for Waite is fond of a quote. He often misattributes many of Winston Churchill’s finer words, but I will start with a different one from Emma Goldman: ‘Before we can forgive one another we have to understand one another.’ That is what this Speaker’s inquiry would have done.

So let us put on record some of what I understand are the actions which the Speaker’s inquiry will no longer hear. Let us in this chamber, in this parliament in this state now understand each other. The Speaker’s inquiry will now not hear from two young women staffers, both in their early twenties, who participated in what should have been a harmless game of charades set up by an SA-Best staff member, where they sat in chairs and had to guess the answer to an acted out charade character—in this case, Donald Trump.

The member for Waite, Sam Duluk MP, stood up as these two young women were seated near him and mimicked gestures that, when challenged, he claimed were him doffing his trucker’s cap to make America great again. To the other people in that party, and to the young women, these gestures clearly were his hand moving towards his groin, standing right near their heads, and reflecting the ‘grab ’em by the pussy’ gesture that we know to be associated with the former President of the United States.

The young women talked amongst themselves later—at the time they were a little shocked and left the party soon after. It was only in the following days, in a break from work at lunch time, that one of them stated to me—she was doing some casual work in my office—’That was so gross that he was right near my head doing that.’ I had to reassure her that that was not typical workplace behaviour and not accepted in any other workplace in this state.

The Speaker’s inquiry will now also not hear of the homophobic treatment of a male worker in this place—not a political staffer of any sort, he simply was attempting to enjoy conversation and Christmas cheer in his workplace of a Friday afternoon, when he had his jacket repeatedly seized and repeatedly attempted to be pulled off him during the same game of charades. The attempts were politely repelled and clearly unwanted, but the member for Waite persisted regardless.

That worker, our colleague, was then subjected to further homophobia after deciding to leave the corridor drinks, adding to the bullying, rudeness and indignity he had already faced, when the member for Waite, walking several paces behind him with a Liberal staffer, mused loudly enough so that those behind the member for Waite in the corridor could hear, ‘Best not walk too fast and get ahead of him or we might get fucked up the arse.’

The PRESIDENT: The honourable member will be cautious with language that is unparliamentary, and I deem that to be unparliamentary. I am sure there are other ways—

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: Mr President, that was the quote.

The PRESIDENT: Order!

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: That was the quote, Mr President.

The PRESIDENT: Order! I will be very tolerant, but I think there are ways in which the honourable member can describe that without using—

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: Those ways have been shut down to us, Mr President.

The PRESIDENT: Order! I am speaking—without using words that are unparliamentary, quite clearly, and have ruled to be so over many occasions throughout the Westminster system. I am not getting in the way of the honourable member’s presentation—

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: Mr President, can you cite the ruling, please, where a quote—

The PRESIDENT: Order! The honourable member will not argue with me. The honourable member can continue, but please do not use unparliamentary language. If you wish to use the word, how it starts—

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: Because there will be quite a few to come.

The PRESIDENT: Then I ask you to make sure that that is the way in which you handle those words. Continue, please.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I agree, Mr President, that these things should be unparliamentary. Unfortunately, this member of parliament did not see it that way and chose to use those words. They are his direct quotes.

The PRESIDENT: They may well have been, and I understand the member’s concern that these were offensive words in the parliamentary corridors, and if they were offensive there they are offensive here. So I ask the member, she can describe them pretty well without actually using them in full, and that is what I ask the member to do. That is consistent with parliamentary practice, and that is what I ask you to do as you proceed.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: The inquiry will now not hear from the staffer who was stood over and threatened until she removed a photo that she had taken of the member for Waite, Sam Duluk MP, of him drinking spirits straight from the bottle, an act he had done several times that night, an act he had the good sense to know was a damaging photo taken at the time.

The inquiry will not hear about the member for Waite, Sam Duluk MP, sliding down the bannister of the marble staircase, waxing lyrical with racist remarks about another MP in this chamber—remarks he made more than once that evening. The inquiry will not now hear from the staff who have had to come into this place each and every work day, knowing that they may walk into this man, see him in the corridors or the shared areas, knowing that this is a man who caused them humiliation and harm.

Back then I had hope in the Speaker’s inquiry—others did not. All of us were resigned to the fact that only the voters of Waite can remove the member for Waite from his seat, and that day is still to come.

What I do know now is that the events of the crossbench Christmas function were not solely our burden to bear. That bad behaviour also happened at the Liberal Christmas party event. That these have not yet surfaced in the media and that attempts have been made to urge party processes to address what I would describe as unlawful and unacceptable behaviour is, indeed, deeply distressing.

Much, of course, has been made of the incident with the member for Waite slapping the Hon. Connie Bonaros on the bottom. It was the subject of a court case that has now concluded, but the reality of this incident and the connection of that member’s hand on the honourable member’s bottom was actually at the end of a string of indignity that reflected very badly on the member for Waite and caused great distress and damage to those who work with him and around him. We have all had to come into this place for the last 90-plus weeks having been humiliated and harangued over a sustained period of time on that evening and, indeed, let down by the parliamentary and political processes since.

The Liberal Party function is now the focus of my speech. There were, of course, not one but two Christmas parties in this building that night, one in the Balcony Room—the Liberal Party function—a large function room on the north-west corner of level one and another on the lower ground floor, along the eastern corridor, where many of the crossbench work. I note also some Liberals have their offices downstairs on the lower ground floor.

The member for Waite made his disruptive entrance into the lower ground floor corridor function of the crossbenchers from that first floor level function in the Balcony Room as a Liberal female staff member appeared to be in some haste to reach her office and escape him. When she got to that corner office she slammed the door behind her. It caught members of the crossbench drinks event’s attention and concern. To the bystanders it now appears that she was seeking to escape his attentions and, indeed, did so successfully for that moment.

Unfortunately for the crossbench attendees he stopped in his tracks, realising he had just crashed our function. I will return to that Liberal function—that other event of that night—later. The crossbench Christmas drinks are a longstanding tradition. They are hardly a raucous event. The invitation was dubbed the ‘Nightmare before Christmas’. If only we had known how portentous that would be. It simply said:

All cross-bench Members and staff invited.

Just bring your own drinks and a plate of food to share.

Indeed, there was a wonderful lasagne. It continues:

The theme this year is:

The Nightmare before Christmas (as it’s Friday 13th)

The party starts from 3.00pm—

although it didn’t get started until just before 4—

games will start after 4.00pm.

There is no need to dress up but there is a prize for best dressed.

There are more games, prizes, food and fun this year!

Hope to see you all there.

It was Pat Casbarra’s last day on the job, so it was a double celebration to farewell her. We had invited the Premier, the Leader of the Opposition and, as is tradition, members of the library and Hansard, the Clerks and other parliamentary staff, and many of them attended.

Mark Parnell—the Hon. Mark Parnell then—attended for the first part, but I note that the Hon. John Darley and the Hon. Frank Pangallo did not. Indeed, it was an event cohosted by myself and the Hon. Connie Bonaros.

Our anticipated late afternoon-early evening of a few drinks, some lasagne, some party food, some lovely dips and a few games was not to be. While the first part of it ran as expected, it was, indeed, derailed by the member for Waite. From the agreed court documents alone:

The accused was an unmistakable presence at the Cross-Bench Christmas party. He was loud, high-spirited, and obviously drunk throughout the party. (Tellingly, the accused counsel did not challenge any witness on the issue of his intoxication—

goes the agreed finding of facts from the court ruling. I go on:

Some of the accused’s conduct showed a clear focus on the alleged victim. He was particularly attentive towards her. (While some of the precise details of these episodes was not agreed, there was broadly no dispute about the accused’s behaviour.)

I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt of the following events which took place during the party…

I will not go into all of them, Mr President, you will be glad to hear. I certainly invite members of all parties to make themselves familiar with the document. It is available and indeed makes very interesting reading. But they do agree that:

The accused grabbed a bottle of spirits and held it up to the alleged victim’s mouth, asking her to drink from the bottle. She declined;

The accused said he had alcohol in his office and asked the alleged victim to accompany him to his office. She again declined the invitation…

The accused approached the alleged victim when she was sitting in a tub chair. He grabbed the chair by the sides and, facing her, lifted the chair a short distance up off the floor, enough to lift her feet off the ground. This was uninvited and unwelcome. The alleged victim told the accused to put her down. She was concerned that other people would be able to see up her dress if he lifted her chair into the air;

On more than one occasion, the accused put his arm around the alleged victim’s shoulder. He also stood near her, ‘leaning over’ her. The alleged victim accepted that she did not specifically tell him not to do this, but she added, ‘I think I made it clear that I was trying to move away from this situation’;

The accused was throwing ice around during the party. At one point, he tried to put ice down the front of the alleged victim’s dress.

The judge found:

There is no doubt the accused treated [the Honourable Connie] Bonaros poorly. He was insensitive to her discomfort. He was entitled, uncouth and disrespectful. He behaved like a drunken pest.

The Hon. Connie Bonaros was not the only person the member for Waite treated poorly in this workplace on that night. She was not the only one to whom he was insensitive to their discomfort and entitled, uncouth and disrespectful. As I stated to the private investigator, and in my observations to him made in that interview that I have now received back via the Speaker:

You can see when people are comfortable and when they’re not and I could see people were uncomfortable and particularly the women I could see at that point and my feelings, because it was more feelings than you know, paying attention thinking that I was going to have to give evidence about this, at some stage, was I was just feeling like this is a bit gross, a bit sleazy; [well, yeah] he’s clearly annoying people and making them feel uncomfortable, which he delights in doing. That’s something that he quite likes making people feel uncomfortable.

I now know more than I would ever care to know about some of the statements and actions made by the member for Waite, Sam Duluk MP, that evening. He made those statements to people in this workplace that made them incredibly uncomfortable. He said to a woman in this workplace, our workplace, her workplace, ‘You’ve got big [a cuss word for breasts].’ Then he said, ‘I’d like to [a word starting with f, with four letters] them.’ He said to a woman in this workplace, our workplace and her workplace, ‘I know you’re effing him so you can eff me too.’

He said to a fellow member of parliament, about a member of this chamber, ‘He is not a real Aboriginal. My grandmother was raped in Mildura so maybe I am part Aboriginal.’ He asked a woman in this workplace, her workplace, if she was having sex with me—meaning me. He further asked that worker if myself and this woman were lesbians. He threatened a woman in this workplace who took a photo of him until she deleted that photo.

And when his advances were declined, he said to a woman in this workplace, our workplace and her workplace, ‘I might not eff you tonight but I will eff you,’ as he departed. Many, many times over the course of this evening the member for Waite, Sam Duluk MP, stated to his victims, ‘I know I am being inappropriate.’ Let’s not let the drunk’s defence have any resonance here. Let’s reflect on those words. ‘I know I am being inappropriate,’ he said time and time again.

To reinforce that, I note that spirit bottle that he was swigging from that he did not want the photo taken of, that he aggressively insisted be deleted from that person’s phone. I dare say he was cognisant at the time that his actions were actually not acceptable should they have been made public. His actions were calculated to offend and provoke, to make people uncomfortable and, my goodness, it worked. That discomfort continues to this day.

To be very clear, none of those remarks I just noted and put on the record of this Hansard were made to the Hon. Connie Bonaros. She has borne the brunt and taken the public action, where the parliamentary processes and party processes have failed this workplace. We know he was described as a ‘drunken pest’ by the court in his harassment of her, but we also know that that was the tip of the iceberg.

Indeed, there was a sustained barrage of completely inappropriate actions and words that night by the member for Waite. Quite a few other Liberal staff members were also down on the lower ground floor at this time, so they know this too. They looked on. They knew. They were asked by us, as staff, to perhaps advise him to leave, to calm down, to settle down. There were four or five who were asked and the response from all of them was to shirk that responsibility. As one of them put it, ‘He’s not in my faction. I hope he’s dead in the toilet.’ They perhaps knew better than we did at this point that his behaviour was being tolerated typically.

We crossbenchers and others were not the only ones impacted by that bad and harassing behaviour that night. I will return to the start of the speech, where the Liberal staffer went hurriedly through our gathering, slamming the office door behind her. He, of course, seemed in pursuit but then was alerted to his potential new prey.

Since the suspension of the Speaker’s inquiry and in the weeks leading up post the court hearings, I have heard various accounts of just what went on at the Liberal Party party that night. I believe there is a video of the member for Waite calling a female staff member a ‘frigid bitch’. I believe that a staffer who was accompanying and with the member for Waite at the time urinated in a corner of an MP’s office before turning around with his penis still exposed, waving his appendage into the breeze with his arms in the air, calling out, ‘Touch it, touch it.’

I have heard many rumours, and I know others have in this place as well, of an incident of upskirting, which if true is a criminal offence. Others have approached me too, and one I want to reflect on right now is the events of that Liberal Party party drinks that night, where the complainant did indeed take the matter up with the EO commissioner’s review of this workplace.

I draw members’ attention to pages 121 and 122 of that report. That complaint originated from this evening and the member for Waite’s behaviour. In that sexual harassment complaint case study, the review was told by a victim about multiple alleged matters involving sexual harassment and assault. The alleged incidents occurred at a work social function. One matter involved alleged low-level sexual harassment by two members of parliament—not one, but two. That then escalated to alleged sexual assault by one member of parliament.

Separately, another incident of alleged sexual harassment occurred that was conducted by a staff member towards the victim and others. The alleged incidents were reported by the victim to several sources. This included immediately or soon after the incident. The review was told that the victim reported the matter to her colleagues, then over the following weeks and months to senior leadership of her political party, the relevant presiding officer and two leadership positions in the Public Service. The review was told that the response to the victim from colleagues was, ‘You will be a rat if you say anything,’ and, ‘You don’t report MPs.’ This was interpreted by the victim to mean, ‘Put up with it and don’t stir up trouble.’

The response from her party was to present the option of reporting to police and offer strategies to avoid contact with the harasser. Indeed, originally one of the only tools in the Speaker’s arsenal was to ensure that the member for Waite perhaps might be banned from the catering department of this building and perhaps not be allowed in the members’ bar or the dining room or the Blue Room, as we call our cafeteria. As we know, everyone goes to the Blue Room but not if you have been sexually harassed at a party function in this building. You stop going to the Blue Room at that point.

The victim felt the party otherwise sought to manage it within a closed circle, with minimal information shared with her. This was perceived by the victim as a focus on managing the matter to prevent fallout or minimise disruption to the party and political process. The response from the Department of Treasury and Finance was to provide advice about the victim keeping separated from the harasser and, if the complaint was to be made formal, then they would refer the matter back to the presiding officer. This was interpreted by the victim to mean that the department had no authority to take action.

The victim considered all these responses as inappropriate and absent of any process. Through these discussions, the victim reported that it was six months before she was alerted to external reporting options other than reporting to the police. The victim described long-term impacts of the alleged harassment and assault. It is those aforementioned aspects I hope members are reflecting on.

The review was told that this resulted from feeling that the matter was left to fester, that there was no credible investigation of the alleged incidents and that she felt compelled to independently seek corroborating evidence of the incidents and that there was injustice in there being no repercussions for the harassers, whereas she continued to experience ongoing impacts. The victim stated, ‘I had very high anxiety levels. I wasn’t functioning very well.’ The victim described that the distress of dealing with the experience was exacerbated by the concern about the impact on her career.

Fear about the matter becoming public and then having to cope with the pressure of public scrutiny, including explaining to her family and friends the position she had found herself in, was identified as a major pressure and factor in her decision-making. In raising the incidents, the victim wanted an internal investigation process that acknowledged what had occurred and the impacts on her, as well as management investigation with a level of independence and protection of her integrity, career and privacy, and that appropriate consequences be applied to the harassers—harassers, multiple.

The victim reported to the review that none of these outcomes were achieved, not a single one. Now she has no inquiry, and the EO option offered by the Speaker yesterday is a false one. The clock has run out for those of us who would wish to take this matter up with the EO commissioner. I think of those trainees, I think of that male, those women—where do they go now? Quite a few of them have come to me, which is utterly inadequate in terms of our processes.

The silent suffering of these victims must not be underestimated. It is important to note that when one employee is being abused, their colleagues are also afflicted. It is stressful to keep a secret, especially secrets that are so clearly damaging. When employees are questioned about the effect of harassment on their colleagues, you can often hear some physical manifestation of that stress. They cannot sleep. They have to keep going to the bathroom. It is like you watch people in your team suffer or even wither away just as they try to get through their day, and yet a perpetrator asks for forgiveness. A perpetrator asks for redemption. A perpetrator asks us to move on.

I well understand that it must be humiliating. It must be hard and hurtful and humiliating for those who offend, harass and perpetrate this harm. We will understand that deep sense of humiliation in the workplace. It is embarrassing. It does create deeply debilitating feelings of anxiety and shame, but that shame rightfully belongs with the perpetrator, the one who set these events in play. The actions which triggered past events, which made wounds fresh again, which picked the scabs of past abuse or harassment, of harm not yet healed, those wounds pervade the victims, not the perpetrator.

I note that with the ending of the Speaker’s inquiry, this matter and those victims now have nowhere to go. The EO option is a false one. The parliamentary processes have failed them. The party processes are all they have left but, to my mind so far, they have also failed.

Indeed, if people have seen this as a decision of the Liberal Party of whether or not to let the member for Waite back into the parliamentary party, to whether or not to endorse the member for Waite to represent the people of Waite into the future, I don’t actually see that that is the decision that the Liberal Party faces here. I think this is not a decision that the Liberal Party decides whether or not the member for Waite comes back to the Liberal fold; I think that this is a decision where the Liberal Party will show us who the Liberal Party really are.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. I.K. Hunter.