Slipper 'shattered' by sex, fraud claims
A church leader says controversial MP Peter Slipper is shattered by the allegations of fraud and sexual harassment against him, which have been followed by calls for him to step down from his religious roles.
Archbishop John Hepworth said today he had asked Mr Slipper to stand aside as an ordained priest and legal officer for the Traditional Anglican Communion.
Archbishop Hepworth, the primate of the pro-Rome breakaway conservative Anglican movement, said the allegations had hurt the Queensland independent MP.
"Well, he’s obviously quite shattered by this," he told ABC Radio.
Mr Slipper, who quit the Liberal Party late last year, stood aside as Speaker on Sunday pending inquiries into allegations he had misused taxpayer-funded Cabcharge dockets.
Mr Slipper also faces civil claims he sexually harassed a male adviser that are due to go before the Federal Court in Sydney next month. He has strenuously denied all the allegations.
‘‘I have said to Peter that I think it is not appropriate to stand aside from the speakership and not stand aside from an important office in a church position,’’ said Archbishop Hepworth, who is based in Adelaide.
"We are having an exchange of texts.
"I am meeting him later in the week in Brisbane, and his wife. They both actually have flu at the moment."
The meeting on Friday will determine whether Mr Slipper will step aside from his church roles.
Meanwhile, a driver with Canberra Hire Cars, Berris Crossin, has told News Limited said she had a deal with Mr Slipper regarding the use of his cab vouchers.
He would use four to six vouchers for a single trip so ‘‘it didn’t look as bad as one big fare’’, Ms Crossin told The Daily Telegraph.
Mr Slipper has responded all Cabcharges were ‘‘completed correctly and were for travel within entitlement’’.
Archbishop Hepworth said he had been surprised by the claims made by Mr Slipper’s former adviser James Hunter Ashby, who filed an application to the Federal Court last Friday.
"I have pursued some of these rumours in connection with Peter Slipper and have been satisfied that there was no proof existing," he said.
The archbishop said there were ‘‘a number’’ of Peter Slippers.
‘‘There is the very devoted husband to Inge, and she is a strong defender of Peter - strong, liberal woman in the Menzies tradition,’’ he said.
‘‘I have also seen Peter drink too much. I have spoken to him about this. I have seen the arrogance that comes about when that happens.’’
Mr Ashby claims that between January and March this year the MP made unwelcome sexual advances, sexual comments and suggestions of a sexual nature.
Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr on Wednesday predicted it would be business as usual for the federal government, once the scandal died down.
‘‘This government, I predict, will continue to get its legislation through ... and beyond these temporary federal issues of the day in Canberra,’’ he said in the US.
When Mr Slipper became Speaker last November, his decision gave the minority Labor government an extra vote in the House of Representatives.
But now the government is back to 74 votes in the 150-seat house.
Former Treasurer Peter Costello said Ms Gillard’s decision to elevate Mr Slipper to the speakership had ‘‘tarnished Labor’’.
‘‘However, I will say one thing for Slipper: at least he appears to think he is innocent of financial impropriety,’’ Mr Costello said in an opinion piece published by Fairfax on Wednesday.
The government believes Mr Slipper should be able to return to the Speaker’s chair if he is cleared of the criminal allegations related to the cab vouchers, even if the civil claims are unresolved.
But that’s being opposed by crossbench MPs Rob Oakeshott and Andrew Wilkie, who’ve made it clear they want all the allegations settled before he returns.