Sorry, couldn't resist
THE Gillard government has lost its one-vote majority just two weeks before Parliament resumes, after Peter Slipper stood aside as the Speaker of the House of Representatives pending inquiries into allegations that he misused taxi entitlements.
Mr Slipper believes he will be cleared, but if he is not back in the chair for the budget on May 8 the government may be forced to rely on the casting vote of the Deputy Speaker, Labor's Anna Burke, to operate effectively.
Mr Slipper stood aside yesterday after James Ashby, 33, an aide he employed in December, lodged civil action before the Federal Court alleging sexual harassment. Mr Ashby is on leave from Mr Slipper's office
These allegations are of a civil nature, but there are also criminal allegations about the possible misuse of taxpayer-funded Cabcharges. The federal police are ''assessing'' these allegations. The Department of Finance is also investigating.
News Ltd reported further allegations of irregular travel claims last night, and said Mr Slipper breached Commonwealth laws by spending more than $3000 to help a friend run for the Tasmanian State Parliament. One of his advisers, Tim Knapp, was being questioned by federal police over allegations of fraud in relation to his work with Mr Slipper, it said.
Mr Slipper denied the earlier civil and criminal allegations, but stood aside only because of the allegations of criminal behaviour.
"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,'' he said. ''In relation to the civil matter there will be an appropriate process that will resolve the matter in due course.''
He urged the relevant bodies to deal with the allegations quickly so he could return before the budget. But if he is still stood aside, he cannot vote in the House. In that case the House would be tied at 74 votes apiece whenever the independent Andrew Wilkie, who deserted the government in January, voted with the Coalition and the two Opposition-leaning independents, Bob Katter and Tony Crook. Labor would have to rely on Ms Burke's casting vote.
While the government can survive technically, another scandal on top of the unresolved Craig Thomson affair threatens to overshadow the budget and torpedo any chance it had of establishing momentum. ''This is not about the government falling over, this adds to the general state of things,'' one MP lamented.
"This is a prime minister whose only standard appears to be 'What will help my government to survive?'" ... Tony Abbott. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Just before Mr Slipper's announcement Julia Gillard flew to Singapore for the start of a four-day trip. The Prime Minister released a two-line statement after her plane took off. She said it was appropriate Mr Slipper stood aside pending the criminal investigation and for ''all parties to note the processes under way and treat them with respect''.
The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, was scathing that Ms Gillard refused to add to the public pressure for Mr Slipper to stand down. ''We are left with huge question marks over the judgment and the integrity of the Prime Minister,'' he said.
Mr Slipper was lured to the speakership and quit the Coalition in November to give the government an extra number in the expectation it would lose Mr Wilkie because it could not meet his poker machine demands.
In court ... James Ashby leaving Newcastle Court.
Mr Abbott is considering a no-confidence motion against Mr Slipper if he returns but would need the support of at least one of the two independents who support the government, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott.
Mr Windsor told the Herald he would study the matter closely but ''my natural instinct is to allow due process'' rather than support a motion based on allegation and conjecture
Over here his full name would conjure up a specific image that I shall not go into for fear of offending the sensibilities of WAB members.
To be Truly ignorant, Man requires an Education - Plato
I just knew you blokes would be thinking WTF, when the 'slipper affair' makes your headlines. I'm actually surprised you gave a toss...
you don't often manage to get to see a train wreck in slow motion
The other half of this is the "Craig Thompson Affair". It's been in the news for weeks now. I thought it might be apt to return to the thread, because of just how long this thing is panning out. Essentially the opposition has been hammering the Craig Thompson guy over alleged misconduct during his time as head of one of the unions. No verdict of guilt in any proceedings has been returned (there are a number of concluded & ongoing investigations). More or less trial by innuendo in the Parliament.
The matter has sealed my verdict on the Opposition. No matter how incompetent this current government is - there is no way I could consciously allow my vote to go to such a bunch of assholes. They won't be getting my vote as a consequence.
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