Slipper says job's not done
PETER Slipper rose to his theatrical best yesterday, declared his innocence, made clear arrangements for the function of the House of Representatives and avoided completely any mention that he was standing aside.
The Speaker is facing a Federal Police investigation into allegations that he abused his parliamentary entitlements and a claim under civil law that he sexually harassed a male staffer.
But he left the chair on a poetic and dignified note with a vow to return to a job he said was not complete.
He gave every appearance that he remained firmly in control, saying it was he who was asking the Deputy Speaker to assist in chairing proceedings of the House, without mentioning that he was standing aside.
"Honourable Members will know that some allegations have been made in relation to me by James Ashby, including a claim under civil law and a claim of criminal behaviour," Mr Slipper read from a prepared statement when he rose to address the House at 2pm.
"This is the first opportunity that I have had to affirm to the House that I deny allegations that have been made.
"I believe I'm entitled like any other person to have presumption of innocence. I am also entitled to have these matters dealt with by proper process.
"It is unfortunate that trial by media seems to have become the order of the day in this country.
"As Speaker I have sought to improve the standing of the House by introducing reforms which have been supported by all sides and to ensure the House works in the way intended by the practices and procedures of the House.
"My understanding is that there is general appreciation in the broader community of what I am trying to achieve as Speaker.
"As Honourable Members would understand I place great importance on the institution of Parliament.
"I propose to ask the Deputy Speaker as Deputy Speaker and members of the Speaker's panel to assist in chairing the proceedings of the House.
"There is much more to be done and I look forward to completing what I have begun."