News24

Police probe Australia speaker

2012-05-02 11:21

Sydney - Police on Wednesday said they were probing fraud allegations against Australian parliamentary speaker Peter Slipper who is at the centre of a scandal about travel vouchers and sexual harassment.

Australian Federal Police (AFP) said they had been investigating the fraud claims since March, speaking to potential witnesses and gathering evidence about Slipper's alleged misuse of taxi entitlements.

"The AFP has now assessed that the matter requires further investigation," it said in a statement, adding that it would not comment further.

Slipper has stepped aside as speaker in a blow to Prime Minister Julia Gillard's fragile hold on power in the House of Representatives.

He strongly denies the claims which include misusing taxi vouchers and sexually harassing former staffer James Ashby with explicit text messages and inappropriate comments.

Oblivion

Gillard on Sunday distanced herself from Slipper, who resigned from the opposition to become an independent lawmaker to take up the speaker's role, by saying he had agreed to step down indefinitely.

The prime minister, who is facing political oblivion in next year's elections according to current opinion polls, also forced a second embattled lawmaker, Craig Thomson, to quit the Labour Party.

Thomson has been under a cloud for several years over allegations he misused the credit card of a former employer, the Health Services Union (HSU), to pay for lavish meals, prostitutes and to get cash advances.

Thomson maintains his innocence.

Police on Wednesday raided the Sydney headquarters of a branch of the HSU, a trade union representing health workers, seizing documents and computers.

Thomson was a former HSU national secretary between 2002 and 2007 before entering parliament.