Peter Slipper falls on his sword

Former Speaker Peter Slipper.
Former Speaker Peter Slipper. Warren Lynam

AN EMOTIONAL Peter Slipper has resigned as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, saying the institution of Parliament was more important than his own future.

 Mr Slipper's resignation, which he said was of his own accord, came after a turbulent day in Australian politics where he only narrowly survived an Opposition bid to have him removed.

The controversial Member for Fisher said the sexual harassment proceedings against him meant he was unable to continue the reforms in Parliament he had commenced.

While the Coast MP has been dogged by travel expense allegations for two years, his leadership of the House was recognised by both sides of politics.

"Despite the vote of the House in support of my continuation in office (this afternoon), I wish to advise with great sadness that I have decided that I should not continue as your Speaker," Mr Slipper told a hushed audience.

Mr Slipper said that "it is indeed a great privilege to serve in this place and particularly as Speaker".

"I believe so strongly in the importance of this House that the importance and the role of the House of the Representatives in Australia are more than my own future...and my own continuation as Speaker," he said.

His political opponent Mal Brough for the seat of Fisher was sent a text message at a function being hosted at the Daily to promote a performing arts centre for the Coast.

Mr Brough left the meeting to watch the telecast live in the Daily newsroom.

Mr Brough refused to answer questions about how it would affect his chances at the next election, saying the developments were irrelevant to next year's election and his chances in it.

"This has nothing to do with me... it's about standards, attitudes and judgement of the Prime Minister and how we've been lead to this.... how we got to this position where the Prime Minister gives a defence of what is indefensible," he said.

Mr Slipper gave an emotional thanks to those who had helped him over his years, as well as his children and his wife, Inge.

He praised both Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

"I look at the Leader of the Opposition who's been a friend of mine for a very long time, he came to my wedding," he said.

"I don't hold anything against the Leader of the Opposition who I think is a person of fine character and I think we're privileged to have a lady of the amazing stamina that we have as Prime Minister.

"I leave this position without rancour, with a great deal of sadness and more importantly with a great deal of regret because I believe given the controversy that's occurred in recent times that's it's within the interests of the Parliament that I take this course of action."

UPDATE 5.50PM: A Queensland senator has called for Peter Slipper to not represent Australia on a parliamentary delegation overseas next week.

LNP Senator Sue Boyce this afternoon called for the Deputy Speaker Anna Burke to replace the stood-aside Speaker for the trip to Argentina and Canada.

Senator Boyce said she was appalled at the likelihood of Mr Slipper leading the delegation after publication of highly sexist text messages contained in documents filed in his current court case.

"I would be extremely embarrassed to represent the Australian government and the Australian people to the people of Argentina and Canada with Mr Slipper as the leader of our delegation," Senator Boyce said.

Senator Boyce and three other parliamentarians along with the Speaker are to undertake a week-long bilateral visit to Argentina and then attend the International Parliamentary Union (IPU) conference in Quebec

High-level parliamentary delegations from about 162 countries attend the IPU.

The Speaker normally speaks on behalf of Australia at the conference.

"It's time Prime Minister Gillard gave us her views on whether Mr Slipper is a fit and proper person to represent Australia's values and culture overseas.

"As Australia's leader and as an Australian woman, Ms Gillard needs to spell out what image of Australia she wants to project to the world."

UPDATE 4.40PM: Peter Slipper has issued a public apology for text messages that made derogatory remarks regarding women.

Mr Slipper, who earlier today survived a vote in federal parliament to have him sacked as Speaker by one vote, issued the apology via a statement this afternoon.

The messages were unveiled in a court document this week in his court battle with Mr Ashby.

The former Slipper staffer is currently suing the Fisher MP for sexual harassment.

In some of the text messages sent to Mr Ashby, Mr Slipper makes derogatory remarks about female genitalia and refers to Coalition frontbench Sophie Mirabella as an "ignorant botch (sic)".

"In recent days, court proceedings have lead to the public release of a series of text messages reported to be between Mr James Ashby and me," this afternoon's statement reads.

"A number of these text messages refer to women and nothing excuses their content.

"It was intended at the time that text messages be private between Mr Ashby and me. Many of the messages occurred before I became Speaker and before Mr Ashby commenced work in my office.

"I understand why people, particularly women, would be offended by these statements and I unreservedly apologise for them."


3.20pm: PETER  Slipper has survived a vote to have him sacked as Speaker by one vote.

Independents Rob Oakeshott, Tony Windsor and Craig Thomson voted  with the government, as did Greens MP Adam Bandt.

Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie voted with the Opposition.

The motion was defeated 69-70.

The vote came after Opposition leader Tony Abbott  suspended standing orders in Parliament  in an attempt to have Peter Slipper removed as Speaker.

The move against Mr Slipper followed the release of text messages he wrote which are considered offensive towards women. 

In some of the messages, Mr Slipper makes derogatory remarks about female genitalia and refers to Coalition frontbench Sophie Mirabella as an "ignorant botch (sic)".

2.50pm: Labor backbencher Daryl Melham is now speaking to the motion, warning his colleagues supporting it could set a dangerous precedent.

He says there is no evidence of criminal behaviour on Mr Slipper's behalf, and makes the point he is contesting the civil matter brought against him by James Ashby.

Mr Melham was the one who nominated the member for Fisher for the speakership.

"We should be waiting for the real court, not the kangaroo court," Mr Melham said.

Mr Melham resigned as Labor caucus chair today after eight years in the role. He denied it was a note of no-confidence in the government.

Manager of Opposition business Christopher Pyne is spoke in support of the motion, which he said was not easy considering he has known Mr Slipper for 20 years.

"I am very sad and very sorry that we have come to this pass in the place," he said.

Mr Pyne said everything that has happened since Mr Slipper's promotion late last year was "entirely predictable" and accuses Ms Gillard of choosing her own political survival over good judgment.

In making reference to the text messages, Mr Pyne says it is so "egregious" that he should never be allowed to return to the Speaker's chair.

2.20pm: Warren Truss has finished speaking in support of the motion.

Mr Truss says he is "deeply conscience of the gravity" of this action.

The Coalition is attempting to use section 35 of the Constitution to remove Mr Slipper from the role of Speaker.

"These are circumstances we have never before seen in this Parliament," Mr Truss said.

Mr Slipper's behaviour does not befit someone in the role of Speaker.

Earlier, Prime Minster Julia Gillard delivered an extraordinary speech in which she said she would "not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man", in direct reference to Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.

Ms Gillard accused Mr Abbott of having "repulsive double standards", and said she was offended when he stood in front of signs referring to her a "bitch" and a "witch".

She also broke her silence about Alan Jones's "dying of shame" remarks, criticising Mr Abbott and the Coalition for failing to adequately rebuke the broadcaster and those present at the function at which the statement was made.

In moving the motion, Mr Abbott said the Prime Minster had "failed a judgment test" when she elevated Mr Slipper to Speaker.

He said Mr Slipper was "no longer a fit and proper person" to stay in the role.

In reply to taunts from across the chamber, Mr Abbott said the Liberal Party was trying to remove Mr Slipper from the party when he was promoted to Speaker, who he accused of being "addicted" to making "vile anatomical references".

This last statement was made in relation to the text messages sent by Mr Slipper and made public by the Federal Court this week.



Topics:  parliament peter slipper speaker

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