Aus politician in gay sex scandal

2012-04-21 09:00

Sydney - Australia's parliamentary speaker Peter Slipper strongly denied allegations on Saturday that he had sexually harassed a male staffer in a case with implications for the nation's fragile government.

Slipper flatly rejected the claims, published in News Limited newspapers, that he had made unwelcome advances on his openly gay adviser, James Ashby, writing on Twitter that "the allegations are denied and a surprise to me."

According to the newspapers Ashby had filed a lawsuit against Slipper and the government claiming the speaker had hired him "for the purpose of pursuing a sexual relationship" and harassed him in person and by text message.

Slipper asked Ashby explicit questions about his sex life, told him to shower with the door open when he stayed at his home, and "moaned" in a sexual manner after asking Ashby for a massage, the reports said.

Ashby, 33 and almost half Slipper's age, was reportedly seeking compensation in the Federal Court as well as orders for his former employer to undergo counselling and anti-discrimination training.

Pressure

Slipper was appointed speaker late last year in place of the ruling Labour Party's Harry Jenkins in a move designed to shore up Prime Minister Julia Gillard's wafer-thin hold on power.

Now an independent, Slipper had at that time been a member of the conservative Liberal/National opposition and his ascension to the non-voting role saw Gillard increase her buffer in the lower house to three votes.

Opposition lawmakers called for the government to stand Slipper down while he was before the courts, a move that would again stretch Gillard's numbers and put her under pressure.

But Anthony Albanese, leader of government business in the lower house, said Slipper had done a "very good job" as Speaker and rejected calls for him to be stood down.

"These are legal proceedings which have begun, it isn't appropriate to comment on the detail of legal proceedings of which, obviously, I would have no knowledge," Albanese told reporters.

"It's important that we recognise the separation between the judicial arm and the political arm of the state."

Read more on:    australia  |  gay rights

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