Slips the net …

PETER Slipper has had his three convictions for dishonesty quashed in the ACT Supreme Court.

The former speaker of the House of Representatives visited wineries on 14 occasions in 2010 and left taxpayers to foot the $954 limousine bill.

The first trip involved stops at seven wineries, the second outing involved five and on the third trip he inspected two wineries.

Justice Burns said “it is not possible to give definitive meaning to the term” parliamentary business.

Mr Slipper will retain his parliamentary pension and gold card travel entitlements.

“The ambiguous definition of parliamentary business means that one cannot conclude that the purchase or consumption of alcohol, or meal, by a parliamentarian is inconsistent with a journey being taken for the purpose of conducting parliamentary business.”

Justice Burns said the prosecution had failed to rule out Mr Slipper had travelled to the wineries for “purposes of informing himself about those businesses as part of his function as a parliamentarian”.

He also said it could not be ruled out that Mr Slipper met third parties for the purpose of parliament.

As a former speaker Mr Slipper will keep his generous pension and gold card travel entitlements.

Both the government and the Opposition yesterday said MPs were aware of the high standard the public expects from them in claiming travel expenses.

Whereas so far as the law is concerned there is no standard at all.

A slap for Slipper …

The former Speaker of the House of Representatives sentenced to 300 hours of community service … that’ll be new for him.

The Magistrate found that he intentionally concealed the true nature of his trips to wineries, had acted out of greed not need and had betrayed the community’s trust.

He was convicted, must repay $954 and must perform 300 hours community service during the course of a two-year good behaviour order.

Footnote …

Mr Slipper, believe it or not, is still drawing a salary at the taxpayers’ expense.

Yesterday he made a valedictory address although he wasn’t promising not to stand again for the seat of Fisher. He used parliamentary privilege to accuse the opposition of plotting against him. According to the Australian …

Mr Slipper said former attorney-general Nicola Roxon had mentioned the possibility of an “Ashbygate” royal commission.

“I have spoken to other senior ministers in the government, I do understand that matter is under active consideration …

It’s not hard to imagine Ms Roxon embarking on such a venture, it would be well inside the very elastic envelope of her judgement. Nor is it unusual for someone facing criminal charges to say “Hey, investigate someone else”.

Pathetic man, a footnote to history.

Just remember, wearing someone elses slippers can lead to a nasty case of tinia.

 

And a happy new year …

Back in town.

I would like to say cool and refreshed, but can admit to being back in town.

I wish all of you a happy new year except Bashar Asad, if you’re reading … you’re not included.

I haven’t been in touch, so I have a bit of catching up to do. I’m pleased to see that America failed to disappear over the fiscal cliff. And they go on shooting each other, everything normal there.

Julia is charging from hot spot to hot spot saying things to improve her profile. Reminiscent of Anna Bligh, whatever happened to Anna Bligh?

In fact the prime minister’s special vehicle has been charging around a little too quick at times and has run up a few speeding fines. Her office is refusing to say who was at the wheel. Tim Blair is running a cheeky little poll as to who it might be. Pop over and join in – just click <HERE>.

The nice Mr Slipper has been summonsed to appear at the Canberra magistrate’s court, something to do with taxi vouchers. I expect Nicola or Julia will mussel up on his behalf.

Interesting year in store …

Nicci Rox …

THE nation’s chief law maker Nicola Roxon is totally satisfied the prime minister did not act improperly over the setting up of a union slush fund.

Julia Gillard has consistently denied she did anything wrong or personally benefited from setting up the Australian Workers Union Workplace Reform Association for her then partner Bruce Wilson while working as a lawyer in the 1990s.

Ms Gillard has conceded the association was a slush fund that Wilson and other union officials used to fund their re-election campaign.

She told West Australian authorities the purpose of the association was for training and workplace safety.

Federal Attorney-General Nicola Roxon says allegations against Ms Gillard are unwarranted.

“I’m totally satisfied that Julia had not done anything improper or anything unlawful and in fact no actual allegation of impropriety is being made against her,” Ms Roxon told ABC radio.

I wonder how much comfort that gives our Julia given the company it puts her in …

Ms Roxon was asked whether Mr Thomson should be suspended from the ALP until the matter is resolved.

“It’s an option in theory, and maybe as things develop,” she said.

“But we haven’t had actually any content. There’s been all this swirling allegation [but] no one actually is aware of what is being alleged in detail.”

And she was vigorously defending Mr Slipper after having every opportunity to read the emails that ensured he had no prospect of a defense …

On Tuesday night, it emerged during a Senate estimates hearing that the Attorney-General was briefed on June 9 about the hundreds of dubious or distasteful text messages sent by Slipper to his staffer James Ashby.

Four days later, on June 13, Roxon instructed the Solicitor-General to seek to have Ashby’s case struck out. She also gave instructions to seek a waiver for the government to be allowed to use the texts to have Ashby sacked.

Also on June 13, in a further attempt to shut down the case, the government offered to pay damages to Ashby to settle his sexual harassment claim.

Two days later, despite her knowledge of the scale and nature of the texts sent by Slipper, the Attorney-General held a press conference and said this: ”The Commonwealth strongly believes that this process has been one which is really for an ulterior purpose … the Commonwealth has obtained a vast amount of material … It will be clearly shown … that there were in fact clear intentions to harm Mr Slipper and to bring his reputation into disrepute and to assist his political opponents and that was the purpose for the bringing of this claim.”

The political mischief in this case has never been in doubt. What was misleading about the Attorney-General’s statement was that the ”vast amount of material” was not merely vexatious. It buttressed a sexual harassment claim. It was also political dynamite.

Roxon also said something that was untrue: ”We aren’t bringing a strike-out application; Mr Slipper is.”

The shadow attorney-general, Senator George Brandis, told me yesterday: ”These texts, on any view, contain dozens of instances of predatory sexual conduct. So the Attorney-General’s claim that this was merely a vexatious case was extraordinary. Any person who read the texts would know instantly that Ashby had a case.

So, Ms Roxon, do you really believe it was entirely kosher to set up a slush fund? Do you believe Ms Gillard was present when Mr Blewitt signed the power of attorney that she witnessed? Did Mr Hem drop five grand in her bank account? Was her house renovated with proceeds of the slush fund? Do you think she may have withheld details of a swindle from her client the AWU? Do the missing documents cause you no concern?

Or is it the case that Julia is exactly as innocent as the other people you have recently defended?

Slip up …

Shame, really …

Julia made an impassioned attack on the AbbottAbbottAbbott for his misogyny in her passionate defence of the nice Mr. Slipper. The government stood firm at her back, the filthy AbbottAbbottAbbott must go, the nice Mr. Slipper must return. The usual independents agreed.

You’ve got to feel sorry for the lovely Julia, attacked for nothing more than being a woman.

And admire the way she came out swinging … the defiant victim of sexism taking back the night … and the nice Mr. Slipper.

Oh, Mr. Slipper has resigned.

I guess that’s what happens when you flex your mussel … instead of your brain.

Muzzles ready …

Gemma Daley in the Fin Review reports …

Federal cabinet is set to approve and present to Parliament a tough public interest test for media ownership …

Labor MPs have been told to sell the idea of a media crackdown to their electorates over the next six weeks …

Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon to say the Australian media was beginning to behave like that in the UK. “I think what we have seen over Craig Thomson is the first step down a Fleet Street style of journalism and clear evidence we need an independent regulator,” he said at the time.

Labor senator Doug Cameron cited the Slipper affair yesterday in his push for greater regulation of the media, particularly News Ltd.

“The conduct of News Ltd over a long period . . . is a threat to democracy in this country,”

The greater threat to democracy is over-regulation of the media. There is no constitutional right to free speech enshrined in the Australian Constitution, possibly because the founding father’s thought the necessity of free speech to a Westminster style democracy so obvious that it didn’t need to be stated. Much of the Fin Review article concerns the Thomson and Slipper affairs. Labor has been unable to sweep these matters under the carpet because a section of the media have not allowed them that luxury. Labor’s response – muzzle the press.

Hindsight …

Tim Blair’s blog today draws attention to an article by Mungo Maccallum from 28 November 2011. Julia had just pulled off the Slipper masterstroke. Mungo wrote …

this was political stupidity of an almost suicidal dimension.

So you can see Mungo’s crystal ball was doing OK.

Well no, actually this was Mungo deriding Tony Abbott for not taking better care to hang on to the errant member. A fuller quote tells all …

It should by now have been obvious that his loyalty to the Coalition was at best negotiable, but neither Abbott nor anyone else made any serious attempt to win him back; on the contrary, the former Howard minister Mal Brough emerged to threaten his preselection in Fisher, with the open support of Howard and, it appeared, the tacit endorsement of Abbott.

In a hung parliament in which every vote was vital, this was political stupidity of an almost suicidal dimension. In contrast, Labor was cosseting every member, even Craig Thomson, the former union official under a police investigation. Slippery Pete was allowed to slip away.

Bad call, Maccallum, bad call, and it’s not as though Mungo is unaware of Slipper’s proclivities, he goes on to say …

This, of course, is where Slipper is vulnerable: he is neither good-humoured nor personable, and even before becoming a serial rat, he was carrying a lot of political baggage. Julia Gillard can only hope that he can survive the barrage of mud which will undoubtedly be flung at him …

Ain’t hindsight wonderful.

Cinderella and her Slipper …

24 November 2011 and Chris Kenny wrote …

The dramatic deal to change Speakers in Canberra today ensures a political year riven by crisis, ends that way.
Don’t get me wrong, you can expect plenty in the gallery to hail this as a political masterstroke by Julia Gillard. The gallery often echoes Labor’s spin.
But at this early stage let me suggest some alternative perspectives and looming difficulties. 

This elevates to the Speaker’s chair a man who has so dismayed his Liberal colleagues (and not on any matters of high policy) that even with a hung Parliament they were moving to disendorse him. Peter Slipper is a man successive Liberal leaders have had trouble handling. Many of his, shall we say, difficulties, are now likely to see the light of day. It won’t be pleasant for him, or for the Prime Minister, who now “owns” Mr Slipper and will have to defend him.

Read it all here.

Just five months later and we wait for Julia to declare her confidence in our Peter just as she has for the teflon Thompson. By contrast her government was quick to stand Commodore Bruce Kafer aside over the Skype Affair (and subsequently very slow to release the report that cleared him).

Slipper deserves proper process and his accuser James Ashby has a blot on his copy book that will hearten the labour moral contortionists.

Meanwhile he should stand aside.

Update: This afternoon Mr. Slipper stood aside.