To one it was a threat of intimidation. To the other, a misguided joke gone wrong.
- Minister Eva Lawler has been accused of “inciting violence” after making a comment in a Parliament House elevator
- Senior Country Liberal Party staffer Sharon Mulholland has made a public statement admonishing the minister’s conduct
- Ms Mulholland said had made a workers compensation claim over the incident
Northern Territory Planning Minister Eva Lawler has been accused of “inciting violence” after claims she said “quick grab her and bash her” to a Opposition staffer in a Parliament House lift in March.
Country Liberal Party leader Gary Higgins’s chief of staff Sharon Mulholland has lodged a workplace compensation claim over Ms Lawler’s comment, which was made while accompanied by cabinet colleague Paul Kirby and another ministerial officer.
Ms Lawler, who does not dispute that the comment was made, said it was intended as a joke, and that once “Ms Mulholland was offended I immediately and sincerely apologised”.
The revelation of the complaint arose from the first day of the NT Government’s estimates hearings on Tuesday, when Mr Higgins asked Speaker Kezia Purick if there had been any allegations of bullying, harassment or intimidation within the Department of Legislative Assembly.
“One political officer has complained about the behaviour of a Minister towards them,” Ms Purick answered.
In a statement released “reluctantly” by Ms Mulholland on Wednesday, she claimed Ms Lawler’s words “incited violence against me in Parliament House”.
“Neither gentlemen did anything, let alone came to my defence,” Ms Mulholland said.
“I reported the matter as I am obliged to do as my duty of care.”
Lawler says she ‘abhors violence’
Ms Lawler said “at no stage did I intend to cause offence”.
“People who know me understand that I abhor violence, bullying and intimidation,” she said.
Ms Mulholland, a former CEO of the NT Work Health Authority and the NT branch of Red Cross, said she “did not find this a laughing matter”.
“This action is in direct contravention of the Ministerial Code of Conduct,” she said in her statement.
“The Government insurer has accepted my claim for Workers Compensation.”
Ms Mulholland said she had not raised the matter publicly when the incident took place on March 21, “as I am quite a private person”.
Opposition Leader Mr Higgins said “everyone … is entitled to come to work and feel safe”.
“And it is not up to you and I to prejudge whether a person can or can’t take comments along the lines of what was made,” Mr Higgins said.