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SPEAKER STEPS ASIDE April 22, 2012

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
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Denying allegations of sexual harassment and misuse of cab charge payments, the Speaker of the House of Representatives has temporarily stepped down.

Peter Slipper, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, issued a statement which in part said:

Some allegations have been made against me by Mr James Ashby. I emphatically deny these allegations.

The allegations include both a claim of criminal behaviour and a claim under civil law.

Any allegation of criminal behaviour is grave and should be dealt with in a manner that shows appropriate regard to the integrity of our democratic institutions and to precedent.

As such, I believe it is appropriate for me to stand aside as Speaker while this criminal allegation is resolved.

The allegation is incorrect, and once it is clear they are untrue I shall return to the Speakership…

In relation to the civil matter there will be an appropriate process that will resolve the matter in due course.

The significance is that he will not be able to vote in Parliament until the legal situation has been resolved, and that hearing begins in late May. Now the Independents, including Andrew Wilkie, each have the casting vote that can make or break the Government.

Steve Lewis, the journalist who broke the story in The Sydney Telegraph, was interview on the Sunrise program on Channel 7, which they claim “delivers balanced news, views, entertainment and humour”:

The situation in terms of the numbers in Federal Parliament has returned to what it was before Peter Slippers ascent to the role of Speaker. Clearly, the Independents have resumed greater power over public policy and at the same they are perhaps most susceptible to losing their seats. In this situation the polls become more important, and it may be doubted as to whether the Government, especially under these circumstances, can make up lost ground of which there is a lot to make up. At the same time it may not be propitious to launch a leadership challenge from the back bench, although that could be possible.

As for the issue of sexual harassment, there must be grounds in the minds of the lawyers acting on behalf of the claimant. When Parliament returns the off Broadway play gets underway, we will all stand to learn more about the relevant act, the decisions made in previous cases, and the defence that the Speaker will present to the allegations.

Does this matter change the political situation for the Government? Possibly to the extent that it clamps its’ style and inhibits its decision making, but it was in recent times never an imaginative and far seeing political actor. The focus will continue to be on the next election.

The more that is read about this set of affairs, the less the curiosity. Bernard Keane, at Crikey, suggests  there are several examples of the mistreatment of staffers by politicians, but it is a problem cloaked by denial. Crikey also points out the appointment of Slipper is more evidence of the bad judgment of the PM.

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