News

I don't know Slipper that well: PM

Peter Slipper returns to Brisbane after an overseas trip into a political storm.
Peter Slipper returns to Brisbane after an overseas trip into a political storm. Seven News

UPDATE: PRIME Minister Julia Gillard says she did not know Peter Slipper "personally or well'' when she appointed him as Speaker.

Ms Gillard today spoke publicly for the first time since allegations of sexual harassment and misuse of taxpayer-funded travel surfaced about Mr Slipper.

Mr Slipper announced on Sunday he was standing aside as Speaker while allegations he misused Cabcharge dockets were investigated.

But the Member for Fisher, who was elected Speaker in controversial circumstances in November, plans to return to the role once those inquires conclude, even while one of his former staffers, James Ashby, pursues compensation in the Federal Court over alleged sexual harassment.

Click here to read the original court documents.

Ms Gillard  told journalists in Singapore Mr Slipper's decision to stand down as Speaker "was the right one".

But she attempted to sheet home responsibility for Mr Slipper's alleged behaviour to the Coalition.

"I expect Mr Abbott to be negative about everything," she said.

"If he's going to be negative about everything he's going to be negative about this.

"(But) as he spews forth with that negativity (he) would need to recognise that Mr Slipper was pre-selected by the Coalition on nine occasions.

"There is a relationship with these pre-selection matters and Mr Abbott's leadership - that is, Mr Slipper was pre-selected as recently as the last federal election and was a candidate ... under Mr Abbott's leadership."

Ms Gillard said she did not know Mr Slipper "personally or well" when she supported his promotion to Speaker.

"I formed a professional judgment about his ability to do the job," she said.

Ms Gillard said Mr Slipper had done a good job as Speaker during a "raucous" time in the Parliament.

And she said his elevation to the role, which brought with it a significant pay rise, had been good for the country.

"Having Mr Slipper be speaker has enabled the government to do some important things on behalf of Australian families," she said.

Albanese talked to Slipper on role

THE Leader of the House of Representatives Anthony Albanese says he spoke to Member for Fisher Peter Slipper before he stepped aside from his role as Speaker.

Mr Slipper on Sunday announced he would step aside from his role as Speaker, after criminal allegations of fraudulent cab charges were levelled against him by a former staffer.

Leader of the House and Infrastructure Minister, Mr Albanese on Monday confirmed he had had numerous conversations with Mr Slipper in the past 48 hours.

"I have spoken to Mr Slipper; I don't detail my conversations with any of the independent members of the parliament as a matter of course," he said.

"But as Leader of the House, yes, I have had conversations with Mr Slipper."

Mr Albanese said he did not try to influence Mr Slipper's decision to step aside, and that it would have been inappropriate for him to do so.

I'll be back in the chair soon, says Slipper

THE Federal Government is under mounting pressure to re-open the books on Sunshine Coast MP Peter Slipper amid new allegations he has misused his expense entitlements.

Mr Slipper yesterday stood aside as Speaker of parliament but indicated he was confident he would soon be back in the chair, despite allegations of sexual harassment and misuse of cab charges.

The Daily understands new questions will be raised today about Mr Slipper's expenses including taxi fares being incurred while the MP was in another location.

Sydney's Daily Telegraph has today detailed an alleged breach of Commonwealth laws which prevent MPs from spending entitlements on party business.

Mr Slipper claimed more than $3000 for a trip to Hobart to speak at a fundraiser for a good friend in a Tasmanian state seat. She lost.

Mr Slipper also claimed more than $3000 for a trip to interview a electorate officer, the newspaper reported.

The Australian Federal Police have confirmed they are investigating what have been described by observers as "clear cut breaches of entitlements".

Last year, the Daily reported how in just five weeks after federal parliament rose for its winter recess in 2010, Mr Slipper clocked up more than $20,000 in airfares, taxis and Commonwealth car use.

In the past, Mr Slipper, who flew home yesterday after yet another overseas trip, has been ordered to pay back tens of thousands of dollars in expenses.

In January, Mr Slipper claimed he had been cleared of wrongdoing over his 2009 spendathon but refused to release the official report by the Department of Finance.

The Daily has since lodged a Right To Information request that the full details of the investigation into his expenses, be made public.

Last week, this newspaper was notified the report may be released.

A ruling by the department's legal affairs unit found that "release of the documents could promote the Australian community oversight of public expenditure information".

The Daily has been investigating Mr Slipper for more than two years, amid outrage from residents about tens of thousands of dollars being spent on limousines, taxis and Commonwealth car travel.

Questions have been particularly raised about why the MP continues to travel to Canberra via Sydney.

In that time, politicians on both sides have continued to cover for Mr Slipper, despite rumours swirling around Canberra about alleged inappropriate behaviour and misuse of expenses.

Allegations of sexual harassment and misused cab charges were filed in the Federal Court against Mr Slipper, 62, by his former aide James Ashby, 33, on Friday.

Mr Slipper has emphatically denied the claims which include that he hired Mr Ashby to pursue him sexually, that he asked Mr Ashby to shower with the door open, and exchanged suggestive texts with him.

Mr Ashby claims Mr Slipper insisted he stay with him at his Canberra flat.

Mr Slipper allegedly said his adviser Tim Knapp and other staff usually stayed there.

Australian National University Professor of Politics Dr John Uhr said the Peter Slipper scandal highlighted the "lack of a code of conduct for Federal parliamentarians".

"The Federal Parliament is still a bit old-fashioned, almost all of the states have devised a code of conduct or members' conduct guide, so that's one of the problems."

Dr Uhl said he was not aware of any previous Speaker in Australia being the subject of similar allegations.

In a written statement, Mr Slipper said he believed it was appropriate to stand aside while criminal allegations of cab charge fraud were resolved.

"Once it is clear they (the allegations) are untrue, I will return to the Speakership," he wrote.

With Mr Slipper standing aside, he will not be able to vote on the floor of the House.

Crucially, it means the Labor Government's majority is further reduced, and the government's agenda could be more easily threatened by minority groups and independents.

Independent Andrew Wilkie and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott both called for Mr Slipper to stand down.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard refused to comment before Mr Slipper's statement was released.

But after his announcement, the Prime Minister's office released a statement saying that it was appropriate that Mr Slipper stood aside during the criminal investigations.

Independent MP Tony Windsor said Mr Slipper was entitled to the presumption of innocence.

"We do have a judicial system. We don't try people in our parliament," he said.

"The allegations are serious, there's no doubt about that but they are not proven and everybody has that right of due process."

Topics:  mp parliament peter slipper sexual harassment speaker



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