The West

Slipper resigns as Speaker
Slipper resigns as Speaker

Peter Slipper has declared that he won't be continuing as Speaker of the Federal Parliament.

Mr Slipper became emotional after announcing that it was “with great sadness” he would tender his resignation to the governor-general.

“It is indeed a great privilege to serve in this place and particularly as Speaker,” he told parliament.

He thanked the House for expressing confidence in him by earlier today voting down Opposition Leader Tony Abbott's motion to remove him from the post.

“I appreciated the references to the friendships I have enjoyed with members across the spectrum over many years.”

Mr Slipper said the role of the House of Representatives in Australia was far more important than his own future and his continuation as Speaker.

He said he was confident the course of reform he set out to achieve would continue.

Mr Slipper specifically thanked Labor MP Anna Burke, the deputy speaker, who he said had worked diligently in the “recent difficult circumstances”.

She had provided him with friendship and support over the past six months.

“She's been loyal, she has not sought to have her own position advanced,” he said.

“She has done everything that a deputy speaker should do. In fact, she's done more.”

Speaking about his record as Speaker, Mr Slipper referred to the changes he had made.

“I refer to the changes in relation in both questions and answers, to the efforts to introduce greater civility in the house and of course the long awaited renaming of the Federation Chamber,“ he said.

“I wanted to expand the role of supplementary questions, to turn our house to be like the House of Commons, where we had more interactivity and spontaneity and where the government of the day, whoever was in the government, was held accountable.”

He also thanked the second deputy speaker, coalition MP Bruce Scott, calling him a “long time friend”.

“I'm sure all of us, particularly those on the right of me as Speaker would join me in congratulating him in staring down the challenge from Barnaby Joyce,” he said.

As well, Mr Slipper thanked all members of the Speaker's Panel, who take the chair when the Speaker, deputy or second deputy are busy.

He also thanked his office staff, the clerk, deputy clerk, serjeant-at-arms, House of Representatives staff, and Senate president John Hogg.

Mr Slipper said he understood the sentiments of those who argued against him retaining the position of Speaker.

“The leader of Opposition has been a friend of mine for a very long time,” he said.

“I don't hold anything against the leader of the Opposition, who I think is a fine character.

“I think it is a singular privilege to have a lady of the amazing stamina that we have as Prime Minister.

“I leave this position without rancour and with a great deal of sadness.”

Mr Slipper said he had intended to only speak for two minutes, but had been caught up in emotion.

“I do apologise if I've taken more time than expected,” he said.

But he said others had put “partisan political interests before the standing of parliament” and he looked forward to “being vindicated against the false claims”.

He expressed his heartfelt thanks for the loyalty and support of his family, including his ex-wife.

Mr Slipper said he had hoped to achieve more reforms to parliamentary process.

But learning about the sexual harassment court action brought against him in April was “a huge shock”.

“What really upset me was it meant that what I wanted to achieve, the greater amount I wanted to achieve, was under threat,“ he told parliament.

“It is, however, in the interests of the parliament that I choose voluntarily to stand down at this time.”

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said everyone could see the “emotional cost and emotional toll” Mr Slipper had been through in coming to his decision.

Ms Gillard said whatever else people might say about the matter, “at a human level each of us would wish the best for him and his family at what is clearly a very distressing and pressurised time”.

“A group of human beings beyond this place are feeling pain tonight,” she said.

The Prime Minister said appropriate arrangements would be made for the election of a new Speaker.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott praised Mr Slipper for falling on his sword.

And while the coalition had driven the bid to have him removed, he said the Opposition felt for him.

“He's obviously been through a very difficult period and we do feel for him as a human being,” Mr Abbott said.

“He has done the right and honourable thing by resigning from his office.

“In this important respect, he has good judgment.”

Leader of Government business in the House Anthony Albanese had conversations with Mr Slipper this afternoon after the coalition's motion to have him removed was defeated.

But he denied Labor had a hand in the resignation.

“No, this was a decision by someone who holds the parliament in high regard,” he told ABC TV.

“It was a decision for him that he come to and him alone.”

Mr Albanese labelled it a courageous decision from someone who put the parliament's interests above his own.

A new Speaker is set to be elected later today, with Mr Albanese backing current deputy Anna Burke to take over.

“But that's a decision for caucus that will meet in the next hour or so.”

He said he had not spoken to independent MP Rob Oakeshott, who has previously made bids for the position.

The West Australian

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