PM Julia Gillard requests Peter Slipper to stand aside as Speaker indefinitely.
PM Julia Gillard requests Peter Slipper to stand aside as Speaker indefinitely.

Slipper agrees to PM's request

EMBATTLED Coast MP Peter Slipper has agreed to a request from Prime Minister Julia Gillard to stand aside as Speaker indefinitely while he faces allegations he sexually harassed staff member James Ashby.

Mr Slipper last week stood down as Speaker while criminal allegations he misused taxpayer-funded Cabcharge dockets were dealt with.

The Member for Fisher had vowed to return to the speakership even if the civil matter was still before the Federal Court.

But following a conversation with Ms Gillard yesterday, Mr Slipper released a brief statement signalling his intention to stand down as Speaker pending the outcome of both the criminal and civil allegations.

"I believe ... it is imperative that the dignity of the parliament be upheld and for this reason when the House resumes its sitting on May 8, I will make a short statement to the House and then invite the Deputy Speaker to take the chair as Speaker," he said.

"This will avoid what could be a controversial debate on the floor of the parliament, which would not assist the standing of the parliament.

"I reject the allegations which have been made against me and look forward to resuming my role in the chamber at a future time."

Mr Slipper will continue to pocket his annual Speaker's salary of more than $320,000, but will not get to vote on the floor of parliament.

Late last week he released 13 Cabcharge documents which he claimed cleared him of any criminal wrongdoing.

"The criminal allegation has been shown to be a fabrication and there is no longer any reason to step aside," he said in yesterday's statement.

But the release of the dockets raised more questions, and the Australian Federal Police confirmed on Friday it was investigating the allegations.

Mr Slipper would have risked facing a no-confidence motion had he returned to the Speaker's chair when parliament returned on budget day.

Key independent MP Andrew Wilkie had signalled his intention to either move or support a no-confidence motion if Mr Slipper returned to the chair before the civil matter was resolved.

Earlier yesterday, Ms Gillard said she had asked Mr Slipper to stand down for "a further period" in a bid to protect the integrity of the parliament.