Sham “Standards”: Panicked Gillard Dumps On Thomson And Slipper

In a frenzied fit of panic, Julia Gillard today forced Craig Thomson’s departure from the ALP, and decreed Peter Slipper to be sidelined indefinitely. She possesses neither authority nor credibility, and her role as PM — and perhaps that of Labor in government — is now untenable.

Let’s speak bluntly and candidly about a few things.

The Australian public is fed up with Julia Gillard and her government; fed up with the lies, the deception, the intrigue, the manipulation, the double standards, the incompetence, the condescension, the holier-than-thou outlook, the scandals, the crises, and the sheer chaos that goes hand in glove with this Prime Minister and this government continuing in office.

Australians, overwhelmingly, want an election; but this Prime Minister would as soon sell the country to the devil than she would listen — really listen — to anything other than a gratuitous and self-serving recipe for survival, self-preservation and clinging to the trappings of green ministerial leather.

And as symbols go, Australians are fed to the teeth with the ongoing saga of Craig Thomson and his credit cards, and latterly with the new-ish but equally despicable storm that has engulfed the government’s hand-picked but utterly unsuitable Speaker in Peter Slipper.

And on this last point, Gillard has today kicked perhaps one own goal too many.

Gillard this morning said that she “(felt) keenly that Australians are looking at this Parliament and at the moment they see a dark cloud over it,” going on to add that  “the views of the Australian public matter. I have made a judgment call that I believe is right because I want Australians to look at the Parliament and respect the Parliament.”

Claiming to be acting in the interests of “standards,” Gillard today announced that she had informed Craig Thomson that he should “no longer participate in (the Labor) Caucus;” Thomson, accordingly, will sit on the cross-bench.

Similarly, Gillard announced that she had informed Peter Slipper that she had decided it would be best if he stayed out of the Speaker’s chair “for a further period of time.”

Gillard claimed that “a line had been crossed” which made today’s developments necessary; pressed by journalists, she proved unable to say where the line was, or what constituted it being crossed.

I would argue that any “dark cloud” hanging over the Parliament is one entirely of Gillard’s own making; likewise, the indisputable and growing lack of respect many Australians feel toward Parliament and its occupants can be directly referenced back to the matters I outlined in the third paragraph of this article.

Stripping away the legalese and gobbledygook so favoured by Gillard, let’s look at what she really announced this morning as her solution to the issues she claimed to be addressing.

Firstly — Craig Thomson. Far from being kicked out of the ALP as Gillard’s message was designed to imply, Thomson has simply entered into a voluntary suspension of his membership of the Labor Party.

He hasn’t been expelled; he hasn’t even (yet) been disendorsed as the Labor candidate for Dobell; and if no charges are forthcoming from the various investigations being undertaken into Thomson and his time at the Health Services Union, he will be free to resume membership of the ALP — and to again sit in the Labor Party Caucus.

Secondly — Peter Slipper. Gillard’s announcement amounts to no more than an agreement with Slipper for him to spend an unspecified additional period of time on the cross-bench; in the meantime he remains on the salary package that goes with the job of Speaker, and he retains the benefits and perquisites that go with the role to boot.

The acting Speaker — Labor’s Anna Burke — performs the role in the interim on her salary as a backbencher.

Gillard’s announcements, therefore, are effectively nothing; a ruse, a smokescreen, smart answers designed to hoodwink people into the mistaken belief that she has acted decisively to resolve two festering and rancorous problems that have bedevilled her government.

She has done nothing of the kind.

And those announcements, delivered in Gillard’s usual patronising tone of moralising condescension, stink of the smug, righteous, too-clever-by-half approach that went a large way toward landing Gillard in the mess in which she finds herself in the first place.

In the case of Thomson, when did he cease to enjoy Gillard’s full and unqualified support? That support is something that Gillard has gone well out of her way to express for many months, and — innocent or guilty as he may be — there have been no new developments in the Thomson saga in the past few days, so why the change?

In the case of Slipper, Gillard and a coterie of her ministers have been adamant that he should return to the Speakership as soon as the latest questions surrounding his use of travel entitlements are resolved, possibly even as soon as the commencement of the budget session on 8 May. Again, there have been no new developments overnight, so why the change?

The answer to these, and all other relevant questions, is simple: Gillard’s standing with the electorate is toxic; her poll ratings continue to deteriorate; and her government is now confronting the prospect of a successful vote of no-confidence for the first time since the inconclusive election of 2010.

The other motive for today’s developments centres on the ALP leadership, and on Gillard’s weakening grip on it; as we discussed a couple of days ago, the mutterers are muttering, and having crucified Kevin Rudd as planned eight weeks ago, their gaze is now turning in the direction of their leader.

Readers will note that none of this — none — is motivated by quaint ideals like running a functional government, or delivering on election commitments, or advancing living standards for ordinary Australian people.

No, it is motivated solely by a desire to keep Labor in office, and to keep Gillard’s backside in the chair behind the Prime Minister’s desk.

An election at this time — favoured by a majority of voters — comes with all sorts of problems and drawbacks attached to it, mainly arising from problems of timing and the fact any election before next August would throw the electoral cycles for the Senate and the House of Representatives out of kilter; these are serious and complicated issues which could be resolved, but with difficulty.

Compare these considerations with Gillard’s reason as stated today for not calling an election: “We (Labor) have a superior economic plan, so I won’t be calling an election.”

Superior economic plan?” That’s another one of those stupid slogans regurgitated over and over on rote during the ALP’s 2010 election campaign (moving forward, anyone?)

But alas, glib slogans and smart answers is all Labor has to offer.

Today’s developments will be analysed and picked apart in the next few days by journalists and commentators across the country, but they point — again — to a simple and inexorable truth.

Julia Gillard is finished. She is completely unsuited to the office of Prime Minister. And the time is nigh at which either she goes, or the whole government will have to go.

It’s going to be an interesting few weeks in Australian federal politics.

 

Peter Slipper’s Jaundiced, Deluded World

Having posted less than 48 hours ago on Peter Slipper’s last (taxpayer-funded) ride out of the sunset, events since have given every semblance of an animal in its death throes; the subsequent antics and misadventures of Slippery Pete stink of a desperate man’s desperate measures.

Given the nature of the various allegations against Slipper, it is no surprise that opinions are hardening against him — and not least on the ALP’s own back benches, where marginal seat holders and time servers are now wondering aloud what the hell their leader has got them into by selling out the Speakership to the member for Fisher.

What is less of a surprise is that Slipper appears to want to fight; after all, he has made a career from fighting his way out of self-inflicted disasters, especially where the use and misuse of travel entitlements at public expense are concerned.

This time, however, the walls are closing in on him, and he would appear fatally trapped.

It was with one eyebrow raised this morning that I read an article in The Australian which heralded Slipper’s “meticulous” use of Cabcharge documents; it quoted Tim Conroy, owner-driver of Peter Slipper’s “favourite” limousine company, who stoutly defended the Speaker’s handling of taxpayer-funded Cabcharge dockets for travel between the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane.

“He always fills out Cabcharge dockets when he travels with us, and he takes meticulous care. He was painful…in filling them out. He did not hand blank dockets to us,” Mr Conroy was quoted as saying.

Well, quite, but myriad other accounts to the contrary appeared in other newspapers across the country today, which made for reading with both eyebrows raised.

Sydney’s Daily Telegraph reported a driver with Canberra Hire Cars, Berris Crossin, as saying she had a deal with Mr Slipper regarding the use of his cab vouchers; Ms Crossin said Slipper would use four to six vouchers for a single trip so ‘‘it didn’t look as bad as one big fare.’’

Another limousine driver who has regularly driven Slipper for many years when he is in Sydney, Antwan Kaikaty, spoke to the Murdoch press, claiming Slipper would supply multiple Cabcharge dockets to pay for travel.

Bizarrely, Kaikaty disputed claims that Slipper would hand over blank documents, but did admit that Slipper, who had been “(his) client” for years, and would nonetheless provide him with a “few vouchers” at the end of a trip.

Is this again to try to disguise the overall total of the expenses being racked up by Slipper? Or is there more to it than that? Either way, it is clear that despite Slippery Pete’s protestations, some folk at least are prepared to blow the whistle on his dodgy practices.

And it begs the question: if the total value of a journey is so great as to attract scrutiny, doesn’t the problem begin there? And if the use of multiple Cabcharge dockets is required to try to disguise the amount of public money Slipper has been spending, isn’t that a rort in and of itself?

Meanwhile, it has come to light today that Archbishop John Hepworth — the head of the Traditional Anglican Communion, the ultra-conservative breakaway Anglican church Slipper is a member of — has asked Slipper to stand aside as an ordained priest and legal officer of the church.

Even so — in an exercise reeking of Slipper attempting to marshal cronies — the Archbishop attempted to make a spirited defence of Slippery Pete, saying he was “shattered” by everything that had occurred, and opining that there are “a number of Peter Slippers” — and cited examples of Slipper the devoted husband and Slipper the arrogant drunk.

It’s not a very convincing defence, and to my mind if Slipper suffers from multiple personality disorder it merely underscores his unfitness for elected office.

Archbishop Hepworth claimed, in relation to the various allegations currently levelled at Slipper, that he has “…pursued some of these rumours…and (has) been satisfied that there was no proof existing.”

Indeed.

I have no doubt Hepworth is an honourable man, but a properly constituted court and/or a forensic legal practitioner under Australian law, he isn’t; and rather than trying to defend the indefensible, it might be better if the Archbishop allowed the legal processes currently underway in relation to Slippery Pete run their course.

Archbishop Hepworth added that he was having “an exchange of texts” with Slipper on account of the fact Slipper and his wife “both actually have ‘flu at the moment.”

Well…if Slipper is sick, it hasn’t stopped him from taking to Twitter to protest about this and that, maintain his protestations of innocence, and go on the general attack; at time of writing, Slipper has tweeted no fewer than 16 times in the past 24 hours — hardly the work of someone bedridden with influenza.

Slipper complains about the media infringing his privacy; whilst I don’t condone such things if they have indeed occurred, perhaps ol’ Slippery should give consideration to what he has served up to the journalistic community over long years: a history of questionable conduct, proven through repeated repayment of wrongly claimed monies; all the “interesting stories” floating around that are a potential goldfield for journalists seeking to make a name to mine; and the latest round of allegations, soon to be tested in court, of which Slipper may or may not be guilty.

There’s a small amount of Anzac Day noise from Slipper of the “Lest We Forget” variety — only a skerrick, mind; there is also a handful of tweets which, on face value, appear to be Slipper corresponding with friends/well-wishers/favourably disposed acquaintances.

I say “on face value” because nobody can see what was written in the tweets to which Slipper is responding; indeed, some time ago — outraged that he was blowing his trumpet and holding court with someone, making himself out as a world authority on Parliamentary procedure — I tweeted to him, accusing him of being a “damned traitor” who should be ashamed of himself, and that I looked forward to him being crushed at next year’s election “if he had the balls to stand.”

The response was an excited-looking tweet thanking me for my support; I tell this story because a look at Slippery Pete’s Twitter feed suggests everybody is his friend, when in fact, so many people are nothing of the sort.

I don’t support Peter Slipper. End of story. If he thinks otherwise, he’s delusional.

But the real nugget in what he has had to say on Twitter in the past couple of days centres on Tony Abbott, the relationship between the two men, and Slipper’s “role” in Abbott’s ascension to the Liberal leadership in late 2010.

Claiming to have been a friend to Tony Abbott when the latter “had very few friends left,” Slipper references Abbott’s attendance at his second wedding in 2006.

Now, to be fair, whether Abbott and Slipper are or were friends is a private matter; but whether they are or were or not, it has no bearing on current events. More to the point, a personal friendship with the leader of the Liberal Party does not engender some automatic right of entitlement — as the tweets appear to suggest.

It has been reported in the press in the past couple of days that Slipper claims to have cast “the crucial decisive vote” in making Abbott Liberal leader; his ramblings on Twitter bear this out, especially a remark saying “…if I had voted another way, then he wouldn’t have become Leader.”

I should get my violin out. Pack your bags everyone, Slippery is sending you on a guilt trip!

It is true that Abbott won the Liberal leadership by a single vote, 41 votes to 40, with one absentee (former MP Fran Bailey was ill the day of the ballot).

Yet Slipper is no kingmaker; nor is he any more responsible for making Abbott leader than any of the 40 of his then colleagues who also voted against Turnbull. And — crucially — none of them knew how close the vote would be; nobody, least of all Slippery Pete, was a conscious kingmaker. Indeed, this sort of proclamation simply marks Slipper out as the grandstanding imbecile he really is.

There’s a lot more detail around Slipper’s movements in cars paid for by the Commonwealth that I could cover; beyond what has already been said, I don’t see the need.

The point here is that Slipper is throwing up markers to his own little world this week; some parallel universe in which he is blameless, but in which everyone else is out to get him and of course, Slipper has been grievously wronged.

In other words, it’s OK for Slipper to carry on like a law unto himself, but the millisecond his actions catch him up, it’s everyone else’s fault, and Slipper himself is the sweetly innocent victim of God-knows-what.

Excrement.

I think all interested parties — the parliamentary ALP, other MPs, the press corps and the voting public — should allow the latest round of inquiries to run their course; if Slipper really has gone too far this time and is caught, then the consequences of his actions will follow.

In the meantime, Peter Slipper should simply be ignored. His utterances are crafted to mislead, to manipulate, and to cultivate sympathy where none is deserved or warranted.

Let the grub sit in his own jaundiced, deluded, caustically self-obsessed little world, and let the rest of us get on with the business of the real world.

A high-order business item in the real world is the sifting and testing of allegations and accusations against Slippery Pete; and if he is to be damned for those, the repercussions will ensue — for Slipper himself, and for the amoral Labor government that has hitched its fortunes to his dubious, and waning, star.

 

The Final Coming Of Peter Slipper

For many years now, it’s been the same; fast moves and even faster talking have allowed Peter Slipper to stay one step ahead of trouble. This time the game appears to be up, and Slippery Pete returns to Australia from his latest overseas jaunt a hunted man.

Of course, we must be careful not to say anything that might prejudice investigations into the latest round of alleged expenses fraud by Slipper, nor into the explosive and sensational allegations of sexual harassment levelled at him this weekend by an employee.

Nonetheless, that caveat still leaves plenty of scope to comment on the latest episode in the life of a scoundrel, a treacherous dog, and a pretty poor specimen to boot.

I’ve known Peter Slipper for 20 years, and he always put a shudder down my spine; I’ve never known what it was, but the guy used to give me the creeps. Fortunately it has been a long time since I have seen him, and I hope I don’t see him again.

A parliamentarian once told me in the mid-1990s that “Peter’s a good guy” — an observation that made me more, not less, wary of Slipper whenever I saw him thenceforth.

There have always been a lot of interesting stories floating around about Peter Slipper; some of these have become common knowledge — the loose interpretations of travel entitlements, the flights via Sydney to maximise frequent flyer points, questions over ComCar usage and frequent late-night visits to Kings Cross, Fortitude Valley and St Kilda are a mere few.

And other of those stories have never — publicly — seen the light of day for various reasons, but interesting stories they remain.

And so it is a curious development this weekend that an employee of Slipper in his role of Speaker of the House of Representatives has made public an official sexual harassment complaint against him.

A lot of the allegations contained in this are pretty tawdry stuff; suggestions Slipper asked about such things as homosexual partner preferences and…er…bodily ejaculation locations…are, if true, completely unbecoming of a member of Parliament, and especially in terms of one acting as the boss of an employee.

The problem Slippery Pete has is that according to the court documents extensively leaked and published in the Murdoch press over the weekend, the allegations are backed by SMS text messages and emails purportedly from Slipper to the employee in question.

If those communications do exist, and if they are able to be conclusively linked to Peter Slipper as the author and sender, then the erstwhile member for Fisher might be staring down the barrel of a gun.

On the other side of the ledger, it comes as little surprise that the allegations of sexual misconduct are accompanied by a fresh round of allegations concerning travel expenditure, this time involving fraudulent use of Cabcharge vouchers; after all, if there is one thing Peter Slipper has repeatedly found himself embroiled in over the years, it is arguments over his misuse of travel entitlements.

I note for the record that in years past, Slipper has repaid tens of thousands of dollars worth of incorrectly claimed entitlement monies; his excuses generally boil down to each incident being “a misunderstanding.”

Like anyone, Slipper is entitled to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, but I just wonder what his “misunderstanding” might be in terms of the sex charges he now faces. That it was all a joke? That he, Slipper is the real victim? Or that the whole thing is an elaborate set-up? We will see; time will tell.

Having said all of that, the response from the Labor Party (and from Prime Minister Gillard especially) has been shockingly inept.

All weekend, out trundled the trusty ALP figures; they couldn’t pre-empt the coming legal cases, but Slipper had done a very good job as speaker; they weren’t buying in to the discussion but they wouldn’t be taking any action to remove him from the Speakership, either.

Gillard, for her part, said nothing.

Nothing, that is, until Slipper voluntarily stood aside from his post; after that, she welcomed him taking that course of action…but couldn’t say any more until the legal matters on foot had been resolved.

In other words, a greater volume of nothing.

Not that Slipper had any alternative to standing aside, mind you; at the minimum, he faced a vote when Parliament resumes to strip him of the Speakership that was almost guaranteed to be carried; beyond that, he risked a no-confidence motion being moved against the government on the basis of his continued presence, the outcome of which would have been impossible to predict.

I would make the point that having recruited Slipper for reasons of pure political expediency — in the full knowledge of what he is like, his past conduct, and of the probability of skeletons lurking in his closet — Gillard and her colleagues do themselves no end of residual damage in refusing to cut adrift such a liability.

It tarnishes them, it tarnishes the Labor Party, and it sends the unmistakable signal that political survival at any cost is preferable to the ALP than is decency, the upholding of standards, and the accountability of politicians in the eyes of the law.

Don’t forget, Gillard’s government is a shelter to not one, but two iffy characters facing criminal investigations and possible charges: just as Peter Slipper enjoys its patronage, so too does Craig Thomson.

At some point Gillard’s sycophantic refusal to distance herself and her party from these gentlemen (and I use the term loosely) is going to permanently stain the Labor Party as an organisation that turns a blind eye to official misconduct and criminal behaviour; or to put it bluntly, she is turning a once-proud and principled party into a degenerate cesspool of amoral nihilism.

It should ring alarm bells to Gillard and Labor that Tony Windsor is now canvassing the possibility of supporting a no-confidence vote moved by Tony Abbott in certain circumstances; Wilkie’s support for such a measure would seem a no-brainer.

Add Bob Katter Jr and Tony Crook to the 71 Coalition votes in the House as well, and there are the 75 votes to 74 on the floor of the House to remove Gillard from office and force an election.

Support from Rob Oakeshott would merely seal the deal.

It’s now as close as that; indeed, a fresh election would increasingly seem the only way out of this mess once and for all.

And with Slipper now back on the cross-bench and Labor’s Anna Bourke assuming duties as Speaker, Gillard is once again wholly wedded to the support of Independents for her survival.

This story obviously has some way to run and we will follow it as it develops.

But I return to where I started: for many years, through a combination of fast moves and quick talking, Slippery Pete has managed to stay the half-step in front of trouble he’s needed to in order to survive.

Today he came back to Australia, after yet another overseas junket; flying headlong into controversy as usual, and flying straight into the most serious allegations officially levelled at him thus far.

I think Houdini Pete has come to the end of the line; only a miracle will save him now.

This time, the clouds of fire into which he has leapt would seem that bit too hot for comfort.

What do you think?