'Scandal' exposed as plot to weaken Australian PM

 

Sydney

A tumultuous year in Australian politics has ended with a court ruling that senior opposition figures conspired with a former political staffer to undermine Julia Gillard’s minority Labor government by bringing sexual harassment charges against the then parliamentary Speaker, Peter Slipper.

Mr Slipper boosted the government’s wafer-thin majority when he accepted Ms Gillard’s offer to resign from the conservative Liberal Party in exchange for the Speaker’s job a year ago. Then, last April, came the harassment allegations by his former staffer, James Ashby, complete with lurid claims of showers taken with the bathroom door open and neck massages that elicited moans of pleasure.

“Slippery Pete”, as he is known in Canberra, denied the allegations but was forced to stand aside while they were investigated. The case grew even murkier in October, when lewd text messages between him and Mr Ashby containing insulting remarks about female genitalia were released. Mr Slipper resigned, leaving the government reliant on the votes of five cross-benchers to achieve the slenderest majority.

Now, though, the Federal Court has thrown out the allegations, and made clear that it believes they were politically motivated. In a scathing judgement yesterday, Judge Steven Rares said he had “reached the firm conclusion that Mr Ashby’s predominant purpose for bringing these proceedings was to pursue a political attack against Mr Slipper”.

Even more damagingly, the judge linked a former Liberal Party minister, Mal Brough, to the plot to blacken Mr Slipper’s reputation and destabilise the government. Mr Brough has been pre-selected by the Liberals to stand in Mr Slipper’s Queensland seat at the next election, due late next year.

The Labor parliamentary secretary, Mark Dreyfus, said the opposition leader, Tony Abbott, and members of his frontbench had serious questions to answer about their involvement in the affair, which he called “an attempt to overthrow the government by sinister and … anti-democratic means”.

Mr Slipper pronounced himself “vindicated” by the judgement, and said the case had been “extremely traumatic” for him and his family. Mr Ashby plans to appeal.

The scandal thrust Ms Gillard into the international spotlight, where she found herself lauded as a feminist heroine. Criticised by Mr Abbott for defending Mr Slipper, she unleashed a 15-minute parliamentary attack on the opposition leader during which she listed multiple examples of his sexism and misogyny. The speech became a YouTube hit, viewed by nearly a quarter of a million people.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism