UPDATE: Peter Slipper has announced he will stand aside as Speaker of the House of Representatives while he defends allegations of fraud, after it was claimed he handed out blank cab charge dockets to a driver in Sydney. He says his decision to stand aside has nothing to do with the claim that he sexually harassed a male staff member.
He released a statement saying he “emphatically” denied the allegations. “The allegations include both a claim of criminal behaviour and claim under civil law,” he said. “As such, I believe it is appropriate for me to stand aside as Speaker while this criminal allegation is resolved.”
He said the allegations of fraud were incorrect and that he would return to the speakership “once it is clear they are untrue”.
On the harassment allegations, he said: “In relation to the civil matter there will be an appropriate process that will resolve the matter in due course.”
The Prime Minister released a statement late this afternoon saying “It is appropriate that Mr Slipper has stood aside whilst criminal conduct is investigated.”
Yesterday, Lauren Dubois wrote:
From the moment Peter Slipper was “reluctantly” dragged into the Speakers chair with his sparkling white bow tie and his dubious history as a Liberal turncoat with a creative approach to expense management, we knew he was going to be a “character”.
We laughingly called him names like “Slippery Pete”, “Slipperace” and “The Rat”. We made jokes about his look-at-moi behaviour. When he re-introduced the Speaker’s Procession we clutched our sides, squealing about what he’d do next. Heralding trumpets beside the speaker’s chair? A gospel choir in the public gallery to rejoice in the righteousness of his rulings? We genuinely hoped he’d keep the game going, perhaps introducing a furry purple hat and cane, P.I.M.P style…. Definitely a novelty sized clock around his neck.
It was all in good fun. He added some much needed colour to parliament and he ended up being a surprisingly effective Speaker.
Now the fun and games are over. Peter Slipper has been accused of sexually harassing his male media adviser.
James Ashby has launched a federal court case against his boss and the Government, seeking compensation. Mr Ashby believes he was hired specifically because he is gay and Peter Slipper, who is married with children, wanted a sexual relationship with him.
The court documents detail a series of text messages and personal conversations that range from the creepy “If you interested we could be closer?” to the horrifically offensive “Have you ever come in a guy’s arse before?”
As soon as James Ashby took the media adviser role in December, he says Slipper became inappropriate. Just a couple of weeks after starting Slipper asked him for a neck massage, groaning in a sexual way until he stopped.
Slipper insisted Ashby move into his Canberra flat with him, and allegedly called him a prude for showering with the door closed. Ashby says Slipper would always shower and use the toilet with the door open.
The text messages that Ashby has submitted in the documents are uncomfortable to read. Ashby says he found it bizarre that his boss would end his messages with ‘xxx’.
It’s the accounts of conversations between the two which are the most damning (and will be the hardest to prove), including one where Slipper asked Ashby, “Twinks or bears – what are you into?”, which refers to different types of gay partners.
Tony Abbott has demanded that Peter Slipper stand down while the investigation continues.
“We now have a Government in Canberra that is dependent for its survival on two Members of Parliament, Craig Thomson and now Peter Slipper, who both face investigation over very serious allegations,” he said. “This is a tawdry state of affairs, to say the least.”
Slipper took to twitter this morning saying, “the allegations are denied”. But a man already burdened with a questionable reputation will struggle to survive this new scandal.
After one term with the Nationals in the eighties, Peter Slipper joined the Liberal party and was elected as the Member for Fisher on the Sunshine Coast in 1993.
In 2011, the Liberal party started plotting to give his seat to former Minister Mal Brough. Slipper wasn’t popular in the party and they’d had enough of his entitlement rorting (he’s been forced to pay back $20,000 in entitlements before and he’s now being investigated for $75,000 worth of shady cab charges from the past 18 months.)
So when the role of Speaker suddenly became available, Peter Slipper quit the Liberal party and took to The Big Chair. He got a huge pay rise and a whole lot of perks and attention. Why not? He wasn’t going to survive the next election. Might as well make hay while the Government is desperate…..
Peter Slipper was always a risky option for Julia Gillard. But the government was suffocating under the pressure of the Craig Thomson affair and the inevitable loss of Andrew Wilkie as an extra vote – as they planned to go back on the pokies agreement. If they forced their speaker Harry Jenkins, a man respected and admired by both sides, to stand down, and install Deputy Speaker Peter Slipper, it would give them some breathing space in the form of an extra vote on the floor.
When Slipper agreed to take on the role, the Coalition slammed him for being a rat. The Labor party finally exhaled with relief. They’d shafted a good man to the back bench, and karma gave them Peter Slipper.
So now the Coalition is calling him “Labor’s speaker” and linking this scandal to the Craig Thomson affair…..
But, there are claims the Coalition knew Peter Slipper was someone who crossed lines with his staff. Apparently in 2003 one of John Howard’s senior advisers told two women who worked for Peter Slipper to “forget all about” a video they’d seen of Peter Slipper, lying on a bed with a young male staffer looking rather too cosy for a man in his position.
The Coalition might not have responsibility for Peter Slipper the Speaker, but Peter Slipper the MP was bred by them. They ignored his conduct when he worked for them.
No doubt, this situation will be giving Julia Gillard a migraine of Kevin-Rudd-trying-to-get-your-job proportions, but this plague is on both their houses.
Lauren Dubois is Mamamia’s Canberra-based political contributor. You can follow her on Twitter here.
What do you think will, or should, happen next?