South Australian MP Sam Duluk appears in court charged with assaulting female politician

Lawyers for a South Australian MP charged with assaulting another politician at a parliamentary Christmas party are seeking documents from the investigator who conducted an inquiry into the matter for the House Speaker.

Former Liberal, now independent, MP Sam Duluk fronted the Adelaide Magistrates Court for the first time today charged with one count of basic assault.

He is accused of slapping SA Best MLC Connie Bonaros on the backside and making inappropriate comments to staffers at the event at Parliament House.

The Member for Waite faces a maximum penalty of two years’ jail and will be back before the court in December.

Marie Shaw QC, for Mr Duluk, told magistrate Alfio Grasso that she would like to seek documents from Paul Hocking of Quark & Associates, who conducted an independent investigation into Mr Duluk’s behaviour at the 2019 Christmas party.

“We are seeking, with consent, additional subpoenas for the production of documents,” she said.

“We simply ask Your Honour to grant permission to issue and serve the subpoena on the contact officer for Quark & Associates.”

Magistrate Grasso granted the request.

SA Best MP Connie Bonaros in SA Parliament’s Upper House.(Facebook: @ConnieBonarosMLC)

In January, Liberal MP and then-speaker Vincent Tarzia released a statement saying he had appointed an independent investigator with “considerable experience” undertaking confidential investigations dealing with complaints made within the public sector.

The next month, Premier Steven Marshall banished Mr Duluk from the Liberal party room, describing his position as “untenable”.

Following the alleged assault, Mr Duluk issued an apology on Twitter, saying he was “deeply sorry for any actions that have caused offence”.

Mr Duluk has relinquished the chairmanship of Parliament’s Economic and Finance Committee and said he would seek professional help for his alcohol use.

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SA MP Connie Bonaros opens up over alleged assault by suspended Liberal Sam Duluk

South Australian crossbench MP Connie Bonaros says she was shunned by members of the Liberal Party, and that going to work became “humiliating and distressing”, after accusations she was assaulted by another politician were made public.

Speaking in SA Parliament about the incident for the first time, Ms Bonaros was at times overcome by emotion as she recounted the “media frenzy” and impact on her family and work life.

Liberal MP Sam Duluk was accused of slapping the SA Best MP on the backside at a parliamentary Christmas party last December.

Mr Duluk issued a public apology over his conduct in January, and suspended his Liberal Party membership after the incident was reported to police in February.

He was charged with one count of basic assault in April.

Speaking to the Upper House in support of proposed amendments to the Equal Opportunity Act, which would change the way politicians facing criminal allegations are dealt with, Ms Bonaros said she “will not be silenced”.

“I have named someone in this building for their foul conduct,” she said.

“Let me be extremely clear: every single day I get to feel the humiliation of what he did to me, and to others in this place, and to the very decent people who work in this place.

SA Best MP Connie Bonaros was elected to the Upper House in 2018.(Facebook: @ConnieBonarosMLC)

Ms Bonaros called on members of parliament to consider the effect of their actions on other people.

“All too often, we’ve become so consumed by the political point scoring in this place … that we fail to acknowledge the impact that our behaviour has on others,” she said.

“No regard for the fact that attending functions to which I was invited, in my capacity as a member of this place, became absolutely impossible for the very same reasons.”

‘Am I OK? No, I’m not’

The incident was made public weeks after it allegedly happened, and Ms Bonaros said she “had not intended to discuss this matter openly” at that stage.

She said attending work became “humiliating and distressing” after the allegation was published in the media.

“For a long time, so many members … treated me like I was to blame for everything that had happened in their own political party,” she said.

“It was worse than that: they just ignored me, and many of them continue to do so to this today.

South Australian MP Sam Duluk at an Adelaide railway station.
Sam Duluk apologised over his behaviour after it was made public.(Facebook: @samdulukMP)

At the time his party membership was suspended, Mr Duluk said he would “take leave from Parliament” while the police investigation into the alleged assault was underway. 

He returned to Parliament in April, but Premier Steven Marshall later said he was not aware of his presence and confirmed his Liberal membership had not been reinstated.

A separate inquiry commissioned by Speaker Vincent Tarzia to examine allegations against Mr Duluk was shelved while the police investigation was underway.

Mr Duluk will face court over the incident in October.

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