Peter Slipper has delivered a heavy blow to the coalition, delivering his critical vote to secure the Gillard Government's wheat deregulation legislation while attacking Julie Bishop for being an unprincipled follower of "naked politics".
In a scathing speech about his old party, the former Speaker said the coalition's attempt to defer abolition of Wheat Exports Australia and the 22Â¢-a-tonne levy was simply to protect Tony Abbott's "flawed and fatal and terminal" leadership.
"I find it quite abhorrent that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is prepared to say to the wheat industry of her home State that it's important to defeat the Government legislation, not on any matter of principle, not to assist producers, but simply to assist the continued leadership of the Leader of the Opposition," Mr Slipper said.
"In resigning from the Liberal National Party of Queensland, I did not resign from my conservative principles. I did not resign from my belief in free enterprise."
In open defiance of Mr Abbott and Ms Bishop, two WA Liberals - Dennis Jensen and Mal Washer - absented themselves from the final vote to make sure the Bill passed the Lower House, which it did 70 votes to 67.
Dr Washer said tongue-in-cheek that he was "too busy resuscitating Dennis in the corridor" to get to the chamber in time.
Minutes earlier, Dr Jensen delivered a passionate speech in support of the wheat deregulation Bill.
"It is time to put some trust and principle back into politics," he told Parliament, saying the Liberal Party's alternative did not provide certainty for full deregulation.
Pastoralists and Graziers Association western grains chairman John Snooke welcomed the vote and commended Dr Jensen and Dr Washer "for standing up not only for the wheat farmers of WA but for the free market principles of the Liberal Party".
WA Nationals MP Tony Crook, who crossed the floor to support the Bill, said his obligation to his constituents came before any obligation to a party room.
The Government yesterday secured a deal with the Greens to guarantee the Bill passes the Senate. Under the agreement, WEA will be abolished only after a mandatory code of conduct is in place, overseen by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
The wheat industry will get WEA's bank accounts to fund a non-statutory task force to address issues of grain quality, stock information and ports access.The amendments address most concerns raised by coalition senators in a recent Senate inquiry.
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