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Parliament: Gillard's white hot anger « Previous | |Next »
October 9, 2012

In Parliament today Tony Abbott attacked on Gillard for her support for the Speaker in the context of the Peter Slipper affair---- the claims of sexual harassment brought against him by James Ashby---- and the crude private text messages that compared a woman's vagina to shell fish (mussels). The federal court judge has reserved his judgment on the civil case before the court.

Abbott had moved a motion that called for the Government to remove Peter Slipper as Speaker under section 35 of the constitution, which states that the Speaker can be removed by a vote in the House of Representatives. Abbott argued that Peter Slipper is not a fit and proper person to be Speaker of the House of Representatives because he is a misogynist.

He said that the Gillard government is desperate and unethical, and appointing Mr Slipper proves it. Gillard is a running a protection racket. Its "another day of shame for this parliament, another day of shame for a govt which should have already died of shame."

Gillard's response:

In one of the most extraordinarily passionate parliamentary performance of her career Gillard was on fire with white, hot anger. She changed the debate from being one solely about Slipper as a sleaze bag who was no longer a fit and proper person to uphold the dignity of the Parliament--- to one about sexism and misogyny in political life, and its systematic use by the Liberal Party as a political tactic. It lanced a festering boil on the body politic.

The motion to remove Mr Slipper was defeated by 70 votes to 69 with the Gillard Government supported by Independent MPs Craig Thomson, Rob Oakeshott, Tony Windsor and Greens MP Adam Bandt. Andrew Wilkie voted with the Coalition.

It was the right decision. Given the separation of powers in the Australian Constitution (ie., (the separation of the executive, legislative and judicial powers) Parliament shouldn't do anything until the federal court makes its ruling with respect to the claims of sexual harassment brought against Slipper by James Ashby. If Parliament dumped Slipper before that ruling, then its acting as a de facto kangaroo court.

The High Court is the pre-eminent interpreter of the Constitution and defining the nature of the separation of powers in Australia. It has defined a separation of the judicial power from the executive and legislative powers, says (ie., the Mason Court) that that it not only interprets the law but also ‘makes’ the law; and shifted our understanding of the separation of powers doctrine towards a more American conception of institutional checks and balances to help to protect individual liberty.

As Justice McHugh pointed out:

the distinction between the judicial and the executive powers of government in particular continues to be jealously guarded in the federal sphere16 and operates in "full vigour" a Federal system, the absolute independence of the Judiciary is the bulwark of the Constitution against encroachment whether by the Legislature or by the Executive....legislators and members of the Executive Government have accepted - although often reluctantly - that in a federal system the courts must have power to declare invalid purported exercises of legislative power invalid. As a result, courts have often invalidated legislation that gives effect to major platforms of political parties.

The Coalition was on shaky legal ground with its motion that called for the Government to remove Peter Slipper as Speaker under section 35 of the constitution, prior to the courts deciding the sexual harassment case.

Slipper has resigned as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. He remains a member of Parliament as an independent backbencher. He finally got the message that he'd outlived his usefulness and that his position had become untenable. The Independents pulled the plug.

The Australian's columnists are out in force today defending Abbott. Their general line of attack is that Labor has egg on their collective faces because of its double standards. Peter Van Onselen, for instance, says:

The motion failed by the narrowest of margins, but not before Tony Abbott was directly accused of being a sexist and a misogynist himself. Not by an attack-dog minister mind you - by the Prime Minister herself. happened after the Opposition Leader had already engaged in a little rhetorical overreach of his own. He said that the government should have "died of shame": words eerily similar to Alan Jones's now infamous (and condemned) comments. But rhetorical errors by Abbott pale into insignificance alongside the government's attempts to defend Slipper, especially on the back of the moral outrage they have expressed about Abbott's attitude to women.

There is no mention of the extensive history of the use of sexism and misogyny by the conservative movement as a tactic to attack and damage Gillard. That too, presumably, is a little rhetorical overreach.

The Canberra Press Gallery do appear to be singing from the same songsheet. Gillard failed as a leader on the Slipper issue. They go on and on about a hypocritical Gillard defending the indefensible.

Some say that the judgement of the journalists have failed. Maybe for some ---given this New Yorker perspective. They all ignored the history of the sexism and misogyny that has been directed at Gillard, or the constitutional realities.

In my judgement what we have here is a strategy on the Right to up the ante on political conflict -- to increase the temperature, the tension and the stakes. They want blood--and they will keep battering Gillard non stop to bring her down, and then to ensure the blood flows. That strategy is obvious and one dimensional.

What is puzzling, though, is why those journalists in the Canberra Press Gallery who are not on the Right --eg., those on the ABC, such as Leigh Sales and Emma Alberici ----uncritically repeated the Right's spin and talking points of this event. For them it was a flawed Gillard who was in the dock. Why this interpretation? Why not something different? An interpretation that was their own? Where was the political context of the event for these oh so savvy insiders who pride themselves on their professionalism?

I do think that the credibility and the authority of the Canberra Press and Media Gallery and its gatekeepers has taken a severe knock from this event. The ground has shifted under them. We now watch Parliament, we trust our own judgements, we publish them in social media, we evaluate other interpretations of events, and we critically judge them for their plausibility.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 3:27 PM | | Comments (20)


Back to the gutter politics.Thompson and now slipper getting away from the real truth, with nothing but lies from this prime minister. She is making a mockery of the Australian people. And who does she blame. TONY ABBOTT.

A second Lyn has appeared. I gather the regulars around here will be able to tell the difference between us.

Brilliant performance by Julia Gillard. This is the kind of thing Labor supporters have expected from her all along.

There are no criminal proceedings re Slipper. There is an investigation by the AFP into the Cabcharge allegations under way.

Slipper's civil case of sexual harassment that was brought against him by James Ashby, is still before the federal court. That court judgment will decide the truth of the matter. Parliament should not decide whether Slipper is a fit and proper person to be Speaker until the judge has handed down his judgement.

The reason is that the principle of the separation of powers under the Constitution is more important than either Slipper or Gillard or political lies. It is a cornerstone of the Constitution.

Ashby's civil claims against Slipper are concerned with an inappropriate massage, exchanges about showering with the door open, text messages and questions about his sexuality.

The best course of action is for Slipper to resign being the Speaker.

Slipper may have been a good speaker but he sure carried a lot of baggage in his saddle. There was a definite aura of sleaze around him.

I think I said this months ago when the Slipper thing first happened, but Labor really is shite at these cute political games. The first example I can remember is the Vince Gair appointment which turned out to be a spectacular own goal and their track record never improved, up to and including the oh-so-clever wooing of Peter Slipper to become speaker. They should stick to policy and advocacy and avoid trying to be smart - they don't have the gift.

"Slipper's civil case of sexual harassment that was brought against him by James Ashby, is still before the federal court. That court judgment will decide the truth of the matter."

The Federal Court is due to rule soon on whether to throw out the harassment claim against Mr Slipper or send it to trial.

Peter Hartcher writes a strange column in the SMH:

Julia Gillard confronted a stark choice yesterday - the political defence of her parliamentary numbers, or the defence of the principle of respect for women.She chose to defend her numbers. She chose power over principle. It was the wrong choice. It was an unprincipled decision and turned out not to be pragmatic either. The Prime Minister gained nothing and lost a great deal....The moment Gillard rose to defend Slipper and keep him in office, she chose to defend the indefensible, to excuse the inexcusable.

He makes no mention of Abbott's comments, using parliament as a kangaroo court to judge Slipper, the deepseated sexism and misogyny in politics or the Liberals using Slipper to wound Gillard.

Did he actually watch the debate? The time is up for these old gatekeeper journalists. They no long have their finger on the pulse of politics.

Denis Shanahan in The Australian is of the same opinion as Hartcher--Labor was defending the indefensible and fighting the inevitable.

Gillard's parliamentary presentation was brilliantly ferocious, emotionally stirring and evocative of a wronged and injured party.
But the substance and argument fell well short of an acceptable political strategy and risked only alienating more voters disenchanted with the grubby, hypocritical and personal abuse from both sides of parliament.
The alignment of Abbott with Alan Jones's remarks about Gillard's father's death and the "ditch the witch" placards of the anti-carbon tax rally will entrench the Liberal leader's perceived "problem with women" amongst some Labor supporters, but the government risks putting off many more over the defence of Slipper.

Shanahan's 'poor political strategy' interpretation does not mention any of the legal arguments about process, the separation of powers and Parliament as a kangaroo court.

In The Australian Janet Albrechtsen says that it was an unedifying spectacle to watch her [Gillard] cling to a tarnished Speaker:

Slipper's shameful texts about female genitalia should have unleashed the ire of the feisty "handbag hit squad" that so fearlessly exposes every hint of misogyny in Canberra and beyond. There is no point looking wonderfully earnest about these matters if you are not also intellectually consistent. Alas, Labor's breathtaking double standards form only one part of what has been a fiasco from beginning to end.

The rest of the column is an attack on Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon whose actions has ensured, according to Albrechtsen, that the Slipper affair will go down in Australian political history as the definition of desperation, poor judgment and hypocrisy.

The reason? Politics, not law, drove Roxon's case against Ashby. under the cover of deference to what Roxon calls a "live matter before the court". Roxon also fuelled an expensive and greedy feast on the public purse by proceeding with a case that a more prudent attorney-general should have dropped long ago.

Albrechtsen then refers to Gillard and her fellow female ministers launching a crusade against misogyny:

That crusade now looks more like a dirty political game. The moral outrage from the Labor sisterhood about Abbott's apparent problem with women has been exposed as a complete political con. And Roxon is left looking out of her depth both legally and politically.

Slipper's misogyny is real bad whilst that of Abbott is not morally equivalent is her tacit argument.

Misogyny, like racism, is so entrenched in certain parts of our media (and society) that they just cannot help themselves.

Why is it necessary to describe the PM as "screeching" ....or suggest that it would have been wiser for her to "keep playing the victim"... as if she has no real reason the be offended?

As for Slipper, he was the Coalition's sleezebag before becoming speaker, so neither side owns the high ground.

Yesterday, Julia Gillard shredded Tony Abbott, and Peter Slipper resigned.

Slipper can only resign once. Gillard can tear Abbott a new one every day if she wants. The media can report the day any way they choose, but it won't be the Slipper thing bothering the coalition from here on.

I agree with the real Lyn, the second one above.

What a brilliant performance by our Prime Minister, the second such performace in 5 years by a PM [the other was Rudd's 'sorry' speech] and one of the only 2 worthwhile PM speeches in dog knows how long - several decades?
Perhaps the most imprortant speech made in parliament on behalf of Australian women ever.
Good on you Ms. Gillard you did yourself and Australia proud.

But as for those opposite ...shame.

Here is Paul Sheehan's nasty response in the SMH. The real driver of the politics of personal abuse in Australian politics is Gillard.

The mask has finally dropped away to reveal the driver of the politics of hate in Australia. The mask fell away. Julia Gillard came out snarling. ....
Why tip a bucket of bilgewater into a fierce wind? Why invoke the accusation of misogyny, hatred of women, against an Opposition Leader whose chief of staff, Peta Credlin, is famously one of the most formidable woman in politics, whose mostly female staff is devoted to their boss and who, unlike the Prime Minister, has raised three daughters?

In Sheehan's inverted world it is Gillard who is responsible for the gutter politics of the sewer. The noble Abbott is a cleanskin.

This is what passes for considered opinion and quality journalism in the mainstream press. Is this how the SMH is trying to attract readers in a digital world?

The old white right wing men in the old media--eg.,Alan Jones + Paul Sheehan--- are really losing it. These uglies are exploding with rage all over the place. It's amazing to see their fury take hold of them.

They are starting to sound as if they have forgotten to take their drugs as their speech has become an incoherent rant.

And Senator David Bushby's pathetic dig at Penny Wong???

Abbott has been successfully targeted as a misogynist by Gillard's devastatingly effective speech.

Are the Coalition going to fight a culture war on “sexism”? Try and make Gillard sound extreme on her charges of sexism and misogyny---a shrill and strident execution of the delusional political strategy over misogyny, sexism--- and defend conservative Catholicism against feminism?

Are we seeing the last gasp of threatened paternalistic fury by the old white men in the media.? They always seem to be angry

The Slipper issue has only ever been a faux issue, another article to be cynically employed by the Canberra press gallery- largely a rogue's gallery on its unending quest to leach all relevance from the news and keep Australians in the dark, like the well known fungii.
Abbott, so inept as a man and a politician as to be requiring of bailing out by Mrs Abbott, was, despite all the previous contrition, back to his thuggish, unconscious worst, an interesting aspect of the events that the gallery also managed to miss in its feeble excuse for reportage.