News National Liberal Party fast-tracks code of conduct as it confronts sex assault allegations

Liberal Party fast-tracks code of conduct as it confronts sex assault allegations

liberals sex assault
Liberal Party vice-president Karina Okotel says she is ashamed of reports of sexual assault that have emerged. Photo: AAP
Twitter Facebook Reddit Pinterest Email

A senior Liberal Party official says she is ashamed by reports party officials ignored sexual assault allegations and she wants a code of conduct for members and staff fast-tracked.

Two women who have accused political staffers of assaulting them several years ago say no action was taken when they raised the incidents with senior people within the party.

Federal Liberal Party vice-president Karina Okotel said party officials would meet on Friday and finalise a code of conduct to improve procedures.

“At the moment we don’t have a code of conduct in place and the implementation of that will be something that will need to be done through the state divisions,” she said.

“The code of conduct review is to identify best practice. We are a party that strives to operate in the most excellent way.

“Lawyers have been engaged [and] other industry professionals have been engaged to make sure that there is a thorough code of conduct put in place.”

Ms Okotel denied claims the Liberal Party had a problem with women, but insisted officials had to do more to respond to complaints.

“I am ashamed that there might be senior officials who might have told people who have come forward to say that they have experienced sexual violence to just let it go,” she said.

“That’s appalling.”

Liberal veteran Kathryn Greiner wants the Prime Minister to take the lead in driving cultural change.

“My phone kept going ‘ping, ping, ping, ping, ping’ as this story was going online and I was called by more than one senior woman within the party who said ‘this happened to me too’,” she said.

“Now this is our moment of defining ourselves, this is our line in the sand.”

NSW Liberal Party director Chris Stone has disputed the details of a meeting he had with a former Liberal staffer who was the victim of an alleged sexual assault.

Dhanya Mani, a former Young Liberal member, said that in 2015 a Liberal staffer forced himself onto her in her home.

In December, she met Mr Stone after she exhausted other avenues to have her allegations confidentially investigated.

“When Ms Mani approached the state director with a serious allegation, she was offered support and was encouraged to notify the appropriate authorities about it,” a spokesman for Mr Stone said.

“In her meeting with the state director she did not make a formal complaint or asked for it to be investigated.”

Ms Mani, however, said she made had made it clear the purpose of their meeting was so a complaint could be formally lodged.

She joined another former Liberal staffer and alleged victim of sexual assault, Chelsey Potter, in calling for an end to a toxic Liberal Party culture and for greater transparency in the party’s complaints process.

Ms Potter, in an opinion piece in The Sydney Morning Herald on Thursday, said there was no accountability for bullying behaviour.

“In politics, there is no HR department. There are no prescribed company values. There is no clear, specific standardised process for women to report sexual harassment,” she wrote.

“In place of the comprehensive, enforceable policies and procedures expected of any other professional organisation, a toxic culture has developed.”