ARE WE ON A SLIPPERY SLOPE?
We haven’t come a long way from the days when wrongdoers were pelted with tomatoes in the Town Square.
Whatever happened between Speaker Peter Slipper and his adviser James Ashby should be a matter for the Federal Court; instead these men are being dragged through the mud by the major political parties and the judge, jury and executioners of the media.
For his part, Ashby (left) made headlines in Sydney’s Sunday Telegraph yesterday with “Ashby’s Abuse Conviction”. In a clear case of blaming the (alleged) victim, the story detailed how Ashby, a former radio DJ, once made threatening phone calls to a rival announcer – hardly a hanging offence.
Meanwhile, the man dubbed Slippery Slipper was chased from LA to Australia after salacious text messages were printed in the papers.
Immediately, conspiracy theories began circulating: that the Libs leaked the story to the Murdoch media to bring down the government; that James Ashby is a Coalition stooge; that he’s engaged the same lawyers as the Health Services Union national secretary Kathy Jackson.
These rumours may well be true. Politics is a dark art.
Late yesterday, Slipper (left) did the right thing and stepped aside. But there’s an elephant in the room – and this time, it’s not Kevin Rudd. It’s the actual allegations.
If what James Ashby says is true, someone within the office of the highest Minister of the Crown tried to cover up a case of sexual harassment.
According to court documents, in 2003 the Howard government was made aware of an “intimate” video featuring Mr Slipper in bed with another young male staffer. But John Howard’s adviser Tony Nutt is alleged to have swept it under the carpet.
If there are no proper processes within the Federal Government to protect staff members from harassment, it’s a sad indictment indeed.
According to one government charter, “Protection of human rights means that we can live free from fear, harassment or discrimination”.
Let’s look at the other side, now.
If what Peter Slipper says is true – the allegations are incorrect and he looks forward to returning to the speakership – his reputation has been besmirched beyond repair. This is on top of his daily denigration, as a rat or a rorter.
Then there’s the fug of homophobia surrounding the whole affair.
Crikey’s Richard Farmer goes further: “In my reading there is a clear attempt to enlist some old-fashioned homophobia as a weapon to get rid of the Speaker and thus weaken Labor’s hold on power.”
There could be serious political and constitutional ramifications, depending on how the dominoes fall.
But the human story is lost in all this. Remember Kristy Fraser-Kirk?
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