Prime Minister Julia Gillard says it was her decision alone to take action against Craig Thomson and Peter Slipper. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Julia Gillard just keeps on giving — to the opposition.
The PM's sudden discovery that a ''line'' has been crossed in the Craig Thomson/Peter Slipper affairs and that she's needed to act to restore public confidence in the Parliament beggared belief.
After spending months defending Thomson, and last week banging on about the presumption of innocence being the primary consideration in how long Slipper stood aside, does she really think her explanation will be credible to an already deeply disillusioned public?
Craig Thompson will move to the cross-bench. Photo: Nick Moir
Gillard's action on Thomson and Slipper is driven, at least partly, by a desperate instinct for self-preservation. The government has been thrown even further onto the ropes by unfolding events. The leadership talk has started again.
In the Thomson affair, it is also becoming pretty clear that despite all the embattled MP's earlier protestations that nothing much would be found against him, the Fair Work Australia report is very damaging. Otherwise why would his lawyers now want it suppressed, when only weeks ago Thomson was urging its release?
If the report is released and is bad, best for Gillard to have Thomson already on the cross bench.
As for Slipper: the parliament would have stopped him returning to the chair while the sexual harassment issue was dealt with. The numbers were there. Gillard just jumped in ahead of the inevitable. (Slipper remains, however, the Speaker even while acting Speaker Anna Burke does the work. He stays on full pay. Maybe he should think about paying for the occasional taxi himself.)
Gillard presumably hopes people will see yesterday's spectacular gesture as a grand deck-clearing exercise. But it is all too late, and her explanation is too inadequate.
This was not a mea culpa. She did not say ''I was wrong about these things''. That is what she should be admitting — except that it too would be unconvincing, because the issues involved go to judgment and propriety, and the PM has lacked the former and condoned the flouting of the latter.