And we thought “front bums” was bad – Slipper resigns

The Speaker, Peter Slipper, has resigned in Australia and it was unsurprising as he was having the ignominy of having his text messages read out on court, one by one:

Within a week, the well-travelled Peter Slipper is scheduled to jet off overseas on parliamentary duties, sipping from the cup of perks and privilege bestowed upon the Speaker of Australia’s Parliament.

This is a world of pleasant bon mots and lavish hotels, representing Australia on the big stage. It is far from the grubbiness revealed in a Sydney courtroom this week where Slipper was shown as the author of sleazy text messages describing women’s private parts as looking like mussels out of the shell.

 Ashby’s lawyer is reading them into evidence revealing them for the world, one by one in a case that is becoming death by a thousand cuts for Slipper. This is the perils of legal action…having that which you sought to keep secret exposes as evidence and one the public record.

Here in NZ there was outrage that John Tamihere had the temerity to use the term “front bums”…look at what Peter Slipper used in his text messages:

Describing female genitalia, Slipper texted: “They look like mussel removed from its shell. Look at the bottle of mussel meat.”

The text messages were read out as part of Ashby’s defence against claims made by Slipper that it was actually Ashby grooming Slipper, not the other way around. The florid vulgarity of the material read out by Ashby’s counsel was enough to make seasoned court reporters blush.

Slipper argued that Michael Lee SC, for Ashby, was reading text messages out specifically to force them on to the public record. Lee, though, argued that reading the text messages into evidence and examining them in their full context would put paid to Slipper’s claim that he had been set up.

Rather than provide a small selection of messages from Ashby’s mobile phone, Ashby’s counsel produced an affidavit he said included every single text message – carefully notated with the words “read” or “sent” to show which ones had been received by Ashby and which ones had been sent by Ashby.

“We’re going to submit, your honour, that upon close examination of the text messages and the surrounding contextual material which is in the exhibit, it’s evident that it was, in fact, the Speaker who cultivated a personal and flirtatious relationship with Mr Ashby and it was the Speaker, and not Mr Ashby, who repeatedly sought to introduce sexual references into communications which were ignored, deflected or rebutted by Mr Ashby . . . and, your honour, when I go through them, your honour will see that these matters are raised and Mr Ashby tries to change the subject and it keeps coming back to these sexual comments.”

The genie was out of the bottle. Whichever way the case goes, the prurient text messages about women – the last thing anyone expected in a case where the allegation was that Slipper had sexually harassed a male staffer – might force the Gillard government to abandon Slipper.

This can happen too when someone sues for defamation without thinking things through and then finds out that defendant publishes everything, that the plaintiff might not have wanted revealed, in the court as evidence in order to support their defence. And no I am not talking about the Collins case.

In any case Peter Slipper’s position became untenable and he only narrowly avoided being given the arse card by one vote in the parliament last night. He had to resign. The only question remains is whether or not he will resign from parliament completely.


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