What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 19 June 2023 – 25 June 2023

David Van Refuses to Resign from Politics Following Sexual Harassment Accusations

Senator David Van has refused to resign from federal politics this week following accusations of sexual harassment. According to the article, while Van has refused to resign, he has decided to take leave “for health reasons” and will therefore not be present for the final week of sitting prior to the winter break. Van’s decision to take leave will mean he will not be present for the final vote of the Voice referendum; however, this reportedly did not affect the outcome of the vote. Opposition Leader Peter Dutton removed Van from the Liberal party room last week after independent Lidia Thorpe made allegations of sexual harassment under parliamentary privilege. Following these claims, Liberal National Party senator Amanda Stoker came forward and stated that “Van had squeezed her bottom.” Dutton said that he was made aware of a third complaint against Van from another woman, however she did not come forward. Dutton stated that Van should “resign from the parliament sooner [rather] than later and seek the help that he needs.” Further, Nationals Senate leader Bridget McKenzie stated that “she had been made aware of rumours about Van’s behaviour”, however she failed to act “as she did not have first-hand information about them.” Last week, Van resigned from the Liberal Party, stating in his resignation letter that there was a “wholesale disregard for due process and natural justice in relation to allegations made against me.” Van has strenuously denied the allegations and there have been no findings made against him.

Shane Drumgold Questioned Over Charging Bruce Lehrmann Himself

The inquiry into the handling of the Bruce Lehrmann trial by the Australian criminal justice agencies has heard that Australian Capital Territory prosecutor Shane Drumgold “pondered circumventing police to charge Bruce Lehrmann himself.” According to a statement by the Victims of Crime Commissioner Heidi Yates, the Director of Public Prosecutions had allegedly informed Ms Yates that “he was thinking of going around ACT detectives more than a month before the charges was laid.” According to the article, Yates stated that she had met with Drumgold at a café on 30 June 2021, where she claimed that he told her “I’ve seen the brief. This is a straightforward ‘he said, she said’ matter. You know, a straightforward matter… I don’t know why this matter is not progressing. I could consider using my ex-officio powers to lay a charge if the police don’t.” Former NSW DPP Nicholas Cowdery KC stated that it was “exceedingly rare for a DPP to lay an indictable charge in the absence of any charge by the police.” Mr Lehrmann was charged in 2021 for allegedly sexually assaulting Brittany Higgins in Parliament House. The trial was abandoned in October of 2022 due to juror misconduct, with the DPP dropping the case following concerns raised in relation to Ms Higgins’ mental health. Mr Drumgold took leave from giving evidence to the inquiry last month and was due to return on June 13, however he extended it until later this month.

Finance Minister Katy Gallagher Faces Censure Motion for Misleading Parliament over Brittany Higgins Claims

Finance Minister Katy Gallagher faced a censure motion this week over accusations that she had misled parliament after denying she had knowledge about Brittany Higgins’ alleged sexual assault prior to the claims being made public. The censure motion occurred in relation to a claim Ms Gallagher made in 2021, where she stated that “no one knew anything” of Ms Higgins’ allegations prior to them being aired on February 15, 2021. Senator Simon Birmingham moved a censure motion on Thursday this week after Ms Gallagher had been questioned over her knowledge of the allegations. The censure motion was defeated 36 to 30. According to the article, the government was able to defeat the censure motion with the aid of the crossbench. Ms Gallagher has reportedly denied that she misled parliament, however she had conceded that she was “made aware of information relating to the allegations at least four days before they were publicised.” Leaked text messages between Ms Higgins and her fiancé David Sharaz prior to the airing of The Project interview on 15 February suggest that both parties had been in contact with Ms Gallagher. Senator Birmingham reportedly stated that Ms Gallagher had “failed” to “act ethically in her approach to repeated requests to correct the record.”

Perth Anaesthetist’s Racial Discrimination Case Thrown Out by Federal Court

A Federal Court judge has thrown out a racial discrimination case this week involving Perth anaesthetist Ajintha Pathmanathan and the St John of God Hospital. Dr Pathmanathan claimed that she was “driven out of her job” and the country due to “bullying, racism, sexism, discrimination and conspiracy.” Dr Pathmanathan returned to Perth to argue her case against the St John of God Hospital, claiming that her life was “ruined.” According to the article, Dr Pathmanathan’s employment was terminated following accusations of “worrying episodes, including that the consultant allegedly received an iron infusion in an operating theatre while a patient was still under anaesthetic after surgery.” However, Dr Pathmanathan claimed that the reason she had been dismissed was due to “racial discrimination, gender bias and sexism.” Further, she stated that she “caused no harm” and that she has a “zero mortality rate.” Dr Pathmanathan argued at trial that she was “ostracised by the State’s medical community” and had faced “surgeons boycotting her, nurses harassing her, and colleagues spreading rumours about her.” In Justice Shawn McElwaine’s reasons, his Honour stated that Dr Pathmanathan’s case theory found “no support in any of the evidence before me.”