a speech in Canberra

Apparently Julia Gillard’s speech on the motion to the dismiss Peter Skipper as speaker is getting considerable play for its forthright qualities, so I thought it could be worth giving some background.

John Gillard, the prime minister’s father, died recently. Alan Jones, a Sydney shock jock, told as Liberal party fundraiser that John Gillard had died of shame over his daughter’s lies. The public backlash to the remark, once it was published has been, to say the least, considerable and the Opposition has been somewhat on the back foot.

Last year Gillard arranged the resignation of the Labor speaker and the election of Peter Slipper, then a Coalition MHR, to that office. Shortly after Slipper’s election one of his staffers, James Ashby, started an action against Slipper in the Federal Court for sexual harassment. The Commonwealth was a co-defendant to the action and this week settled with Ashby for $50 000. New evidence filed by Ashby in the proceedings was released this week. It included a text message by Slipper making dismissive references to female genitalia. If you are desperate for the actual text message I’d invite you to read the court file.

The Opposition then moved the House to dismiss Slipper from the speakership on grounds of his misogyny as shown by the court evidence. That motion failed in the House. The Gillard speech was delivered in opposition to the motion. Slipper resigned as speaker shortly after the defeat of the dismissal motion. Abbot probably did not much help his motion by saying that the government should have died of shame and tying himself neatly into the Jones imbroglio. It’s now been revealed that 2 independent MHRs, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, had advised Slipper, before the dismissal debate, that his position was untenable. Windsor and Oakeshott opposed the dismissal motion.

So, yes, it it was a powerful speech and perhaps it is worthy of emulation as a way of answering whispering campaigns. However it was also given in defence of a speaker who had clearly shown himself to be at least as misogynous as Tony Abbot, the actual target of the speech.

After the disastrous Slipper appointment the numbers in the House have altered somewhat in the Opposition’s favour. The new Speaker, Anna Burke, is a Labor MHR so the government is down 1 because the speaker cannot vote except on a tie. The number if independents has increased by 2 since the general election. Slipper is one. The second is Craig Thompson, an ALP MHR mired in a union corruption scandal who has been suspended from the ALP. Neither Slipper nor Thompson has a serious prospect of retaining their seats at the next election.

The prospect of an actual change of government is limited because the term is running down and for various unbearably complicated reasons the window for an early general election is closing quite rapidly.

Oh, and the former prime minster, Kevin Rudd, has been raising his public profile recently.

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