The Leaderboard: Peter Slipper

Who is he?

The Honourable Peter Slipper is an independent member of Australia’s House of Representatives for Fisher, Queensland. He was formerly a member of the Liberal party and Speaker of the House. Before entering politics, Slipper graduated from the University of Queensland with a BA in Law and worked as a barrister, solicitor, and farmer. He is married to Inge-Jane Hall and has two children from a previous marriage.

The Hon. Peter Slipper in an Explosive Ordinance Disposal suit. Source: Mateus_27_24&25's flickr photostream, used under a creative commons license.

Why is he in the news?

Mr. Slipper hit the headlines after resigning October 9 from the prestigious position of speaker of the House after narrowly avoiding a motion to remove him from the position. His resignation resulted from charges that he harassed a male staffer with lewd text messages.

Before stepping down, Slipper was already a controversial figure for defecting from the opposition Liberal Party to become an independent member of the coalition supporting Prime Minister Julia Gillard, allowing her to shore up her government’s slim majority. He was awarded the position of Speaker of the House for the maneuver.

What can we expect?

We can expect the Slipper fiasco to be quickly swept under the rug by both parties. Not only has it affected the public approval of the Gillard government, but it has also opened a heated discussion about sexism in parliament. Opposition leader and Liberal party head Tony Abbot criticized the Gillard government for allowing Slipper’s behavior to occur. The prime minister struck back during a speech before parliament by labeling Abbot a misogynist.

Slipper’s resignation also weakens Gillard’s Labor party by forcing them to appoint one of their own as speaker. Since the speaker of the House cannot vote on legislation, Gillard’s coalition will eventually lose a reliable Labor vote and replace it with support from the mercurial Slipper.

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