Australia speaker's sex case thrown out

2012-12-12 12:08
Peter Slipper. (File, AP)

Peter Slipper. (File, AP)

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Sydney - A sex harassment case brought by a male staffer that led to Australia's parliamentary speaker resigning was thrown out of court on Wednesday after a judge branded it a politically-motivated abuse of process.

Peter Slipper quit as speaker in October, six months after his former staffer James Ashby made allegations of harassment involving lewd text messages, unwanted advances and inappropriate comments.

The case saw text messages Slipper sent to Ashby revealed in court and widely published in the media, including one in which the politician suggested to the advisor that "perhaps we are not close enough?"

Others were offensive to women, with Slipper, who did not deny sending them, saying in one that female genitalia looked "like a mussell [sic] removed from its shell".

Federal Court Justice Steven Rares threw out the case after finding Ashby's primary purpose in bringing it was to cause significant public, reputational and political damage to his former boss.

"I have reached the firm conclusion that Mr Ashby's predominant purpose for bringing these proceedings was to pursue a political attack against Mr Slipper and not to vindicate any legal claim he may have," Rares said.

Appeal

Slipper, who is married, said he felt vindicated by the judgment.

"I have always maintained that Mr Ashby's application was about manipulating the justice system to inflict damage on my reputation and political career and to advance the interests of the Liberal National Party," he said.

Independent MP Slipper temporarily stepped down as speaker in April when the allegations of sexual harassment and also travel fraud first surfaced.

The travel fraud claims were later abandoned as were other allegations Rares described as "scandalous and irrelevant", but Slipper was forced to resign in the wake of the sexist texts, for which he later apologised.

Ashby said he was "extremely disappointed" with the decision and would likely appeal the judgment which made no finding about whether Slipper did sexually harass him in any of the ways alleged.

The revelations about Slipper's off-colour texts triggered Prime Minister Julia Gillard's now infamous speech on misogyny in which she accused the conservative opposition leader Tony Abbott of sexism and hypocrisy.

Slipper's resignation was a blow to Gillard who in 2011 engineered his promotion to speaker after he defected from Abbott's Liberal Party, a move that lost the opposition one vote and shored up her wafer-thin hold on power.

Read more on:    julia gillard  |  australia
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