Key Lawmakers Stand By Aussie Gov’t Over Scandal
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) - Key independent lawmakers said on Monday they will stand by Australia’s embattled government after the parliamentary speaker temporarily stepped aside over allegations of sexual harassment and fraud.
The opposition has called on independents Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott to bring down the minority government with a no-confidence vote in response to the scandal enveloping the government’s choice of House of Representatives speaker, Peter Slipper.
Slipper stepped aside Sunday while police investigate allegations leveled by a former staffer last week that Slipper misused taxi payment vouchers while traveling by limousine in Sydney on three occasions this year.
The same staffer, James Ashby, 33, is also suing Slipper in the Federal Court for sexual harassment, alleging that Slipper only employed him as a media adviser in pursuit of gay sex. Slipper, 62, who is married with two adult children from a previous relationship, denies all allegations.
Oakeshott described the scandal as the "darkest days" of the Parliament since it was elected in 2010. But he said it did not affect his pledge to support Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s minority Labor Party government.
"I still hope we live in a country where people are innocent until proven guilty even if they are high-profile members of Parliament holding the highest office in the Australian Parliament," Oakeshott told Australian Broadcasting Corp.
Windsor said his agreement with Gillard to support her government had not been breached.
"I haven’t seen anything that would breach the agreement," Windsor said. "If there’s corrupt activity (within government) or maladministration, let’s see it."