AWU slush fund mystery
Former AWU boss Bruce Wilson speaks out in Julia Gillard's defence, as the opposition weighs how far to take its attack on the AWU slush fund controversy.PT4M24S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2acid 620 349 November 28, 2012
- The Pulse: Katharine Murphy blogs live from Parliament
- Bishop can't rule out speaking to Blewitt twice
LABOR MP Steve Gibbons has caused a stir by calling Tony Abbott a ''gutless douchebag'' and Julie Bishop a ''narcissistic bimbo'' on Twitter.
It is Mr Gibbons' use of the word ''bimbo'' that will cause the biggest headaches for Labor given Prime Minister Julia Gillard's aggressive campaign against the Opposition Leader's alleged misogyny.
Steve Gibbons later offered a qualified apology on Twitter. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Mr Gibbons later offered a qualified apology on Twitter, saying, ''Apologies to those offended by the use of the word Bimbo [sic]. I'll replace that word with 'Fool' [sic].'' He also deleted the offending tweets.
Mr Gibbons has a history of provocative statements. He called Kevin Rudd a ''psychopath with a giant ego'', during the former prime minister's leadership challenge earlier this year.
Opposition spokesperson for the status of women, Senator Michaelia Cash said Ms Gillard should ask Mr Gibbons to stand down from his position as deputy chair of the standing committee on regional Australia and forfeit all the benefits associated with the role.
But asked whether all politicians who make misogynistic remarks should be required to resign, Ms Cash demurred.
''It is the Prime Minister herself who has set what she says is the standard for accountability in relation to this type of inappropriate behaviour,'' Ms Cash said.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been in touch with the Labor backbencher over the remarks.
On Wednesday morning, the Prime Minister's office said: "The Prime Minister made clear to Mr Gibbons that his remarks were offensive and he has rightly apologised."
After being disciplined by the Prime Minister, Mr Gibbons made another attempt at apologising for his comments, tweeting: ''to all those offended by my Tweet [sic] posts this morning - I unreservedly apologise''.
Labor minister Kate Ellis said there is no place for "gendered insults" in any workplace in Australia, including Parliament.
"We are supposed to be leaders on these things," she said.
"I think it's appropriate we call out these things when they are said and make clear that in 2012 there is no place for it.
"I also think the Australian public deserve more than a parliamentary debate based on insults and name calling."
Senior cabinet ministers are increasing their pressure on Ms Bishop, calling on the Deputy Opposition Leader to respond to reports that she spoke on the phone last week to former union bagman and ''self-confessed fraudster'' Ralph Blewitt as well as meeting him for coffee on Friday.
''Yesterday in the press conference she said she had only spoken to Mr Blewitt once,'' said the Labor cabinet minister, Anthony Albanese, on ABC news.
''We find out today in the Fairfax press there are reports that she also had a phone conversation with Mr Blewitt last week... So Julie Bishop has more questions to answer,'' Mr Albanese said.
This attack follows Mr Albanese's statement on Tuesday that Ms Bishop's position has become "untenable" after accusing the Prime Minister of criminal conduct when she was a lawyer representing her former boyfriend, the disgraced union official Bruce Wilson, in the 1990s. Mr Blewitt admits to being Mr Wilson's partner in the alleged fraud.
Ms Bishop on Tuesday described her Friday meeting with Mr Blewitt as impromptu and coincidental - ''a 10 minute conversation at most''.
''I was in Melbourne for other purposes,'' Ms Bishop said on Tuesday. ''I got a call from Mike Smith (former 2UE broadcaster)... who said they were in a coffee shop and would I like to meet with Mr Blewitt.
''It was on the route that I was taking and I stopped by''.
Trade Minister Craig Emerson said if the reports of a second conversation between Ms Bishop and Mr Blewitt are true, the Deputy Opposition Leader ''must resign or be sacked''.
On Wednesday morning, Ms Bishop released a statement saying: "I have never telephoned Ralph Blewett [sic] and he has never telephoned me," she said.
Ms Bishop restated her account yesterday that she had only had one "confirmed conversation" with Mr Blewitt, when she met him in Melbourne last Friday.
But the Deputy Opposition Leader did not rule out the two had spoken by phone.
"Earlier last week [former broadcaster] Michael Smith called me while I was driving in Perth and said he was at dinner with someone who wanted to speak to me," Ms Bishop explained.
"That person did not identify themselves and said he was pleased that the AWU fraud was being raised in Parliament. I said that would continue to be the case and my mobile phone dropped out at that point."
Ms Bishop said that Mr Smith did not call her back and she did not know "to whom I spoke".
with Judith Ireland