Andrew Wilkie, one of the independents who helped Labor secure Government, was plotting to bring down Peter Slipper as Speaker even before his resignation and had asked Tony Abbott to help him.
The Tasmanian crossbencher, who fell out with Julia Gillard when she reneged on gambling reform early this year, revealed to The Weekend West he had resolved to move a motion of no confidence in Mr Slipper when Parliament resumed on Tuesday. "Over the weekend I had exchanged texts with Tony (Abbott) about whether or not the Opposition would come in behind me. He was open-minded," Mr Wilkie said yesterday.
WA Nationals MP Tony Crook yesterday confirmed he was considering a request to second Mr Wilkie's motion but that this became "academic" when Mr Abbott interrupted question time to move an identical motion.
Though the motion was defeated 70 votes to 69, Mr Slipper resigned a few hours later after being told by NSW independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor his position had become untenable after the publication of vile text messages sent by Mr Slipper to a staffer suing him for sexual harassment.
Mr Wilkie said the Prime Minister made a "dreadful error of judgment" in not having sought to move Mr Slipper out of the job.
"The conversation that Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor had with Peter Slipper, that's the conversation Julia Gillard should've had with him a long time beforehand," Mr Wilkie said.
"One of the reasons I felt I needed to act was my assessment that they were prepared to leave Peter Slipper in his office, if not in the chair, all the way to the next election."
Ms Gillard did not defend Mr Slipper's behaviour but sought to protect him from being ousted on the basis she did not want Parliament to become a kangaroo court.
She instead launched a blistering attack on the Opposition Leader for being a "misogynist" and serial sexist in a parliamentary speech that went viral on social media worldwide.
Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop said Labor's campaign about Mr Abbott did not reflect the "very loving and caring and supportive and respectful male colleague" she knew.
"Tony Abbott is a son, a husband, a father, a brother, and he's entitled to hit back and prove that these are outrageous and vile slurs that should not be said against some- body who has a loving family, who clearly loves women," she said."The Prime Minister should be apologising to the women in Tony's life whom he clearly adores, and who clearly adore him."
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