One of the most bitter feuds in federal politics has taken a bizarre turn, with One Nation hiring a woman who falsely accused fellow crossbencher Derryn Hinch of rape.
Senator Hinch has expressed dismay Mary-Ann Martinek has been given a Parliament House pass after One Nation senator Brian Burston employed her as a research assistant.
"If I had my way I'd have security escort her out of this building," Senator Hinch said. "The fact One Nation has taken her on says a lot about them. The only use she would be to One Nation would be to attack me."
Senator Hinch alleges Ms Martinek was behind recent claims that he was a UK or US dual citizen.
Senator Burston and Senator Hinch have had an increasingly hostile relationship since entering Parliament last year, starting with a public spat over financial payouts to victims of institutional sexual abuse.
They have since clashed a number of times, with Senator Hinch calling Senator Burston a "boofhead", accusing him of "bastardry" in the upper house, and repeatedly criticising One Nation in the media and online.
The animosity spilled over in spectacular style in September when Senator Burston delivered a cryptic but savage attack on Senator Hinch in a speech delivered under the cover of parliamentary privilege. In the speech, Senator Burston accused Senator Hinch of lying about his citizenship status.
"The noose will be tightening around this person's neck soon and perhaps their head will be small enough to put on a slouch hat. Perhaps their next job will be selling chocolates for charity," Senator Burston said.
This was believed to be a reference to Slouch Hat Chocolates, a business venture Senator Hinch shared with Ms Martinek - who also goes by Mary-Ann Oaten - in the mid 2000s. Their partnership broke down in acrimony when Ms Martinek accused Senator Hinch - then a broadcaster - of sexual assault.
Police investigated the claims but declined to press charges. Senator Hinch subsequently sued Ms Martinek - a former Army major - for defamation, prompting a apology that was read out in court.
"I Mary-Ann Martinek, unreservedly apologise for the allegations I have made against Derryn Hinch in letters and emails, in particular that he sexually assaulted me. I acknowledge there is no basis for any such allegations," she said.
Senator Hinch later described the ordeal as "one of the worst chapters of my life".
It's understood Ms Martinek began volunteering in Senator Burston's office in August, shortly before his fiery speech.
It's believed she has since moved to a paid role. On the official Parliament House directory she is listed as a "research assistant".
On her social media accounts she often appears with Senator Burston's adviser Peter Kelly, who was recently elected to Sydney's Ku-ring-gai council. Both are former military.
In August, Dr Kelly reviewed Ms Martinek on Facebook: "Excellent research person. No better. Very dedicated and incredibly effective."
Senator Burston, Ms Martinek and Dr Kelly did not respond to Fairfax Media's questions about their feud with Senator Hinch.
However Ms Martinek wrote to Fairfax Media and the Australian Press Council saying she felt "intimidated by the unsolicited attempts ??? to identify me in any news article".
Senator Hinch has accused Ms Martinek of being behind Senator Burston's claims that he may be a UK dual citizen. He also accused her of casting doubt over his ties to the US, after it emerged he had an American social security card. Senator Burston referenced "social security" in his speech.
"I don't know why Burston has this thing in for me but he does," Senator Hinch said. "He's told people that it's just the beginning. He's told me that he's after me."
The story One Nation hires Hinch rape accuser as feud worsens first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.