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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Has Peter Slipper finally slipped up?

Mr Slipper resting his eyes in Parliament

Peter Slipper was the National Party member for Fisher from 1984 to 1987. He lost the seat but returned to politics in 1990 and sought National Party selection in Fairfax, Wide Bay and Groom but was rejected by all three. So he switched allegiances to the Liberal Party and won pre-selection in Fisher and went on to win the seat. He has been there ever since, “by default” as one party member put it.
It’s been reported that Mr Slipper enjoys a drink, no problem there, but it seems he gets a bit carried away. He was allegedly thrown out of a Canberra nightclub at 4am and off a plane in the Northern Territory for being drunk. He also fell asleep after a long lunch while Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was speaking to Parliament in 2010 and the picture was beamed around the country.
There must always be a presumption of innocence but as Graham Richardson said yesterday, Peter Slipper has form. He had to pay back more than $15,000 to the Department of Finance after his expenses claims were rejected. He said this was due to “legitimate differences in interpretation” of the rules.
But accusations have been made before and he’s been proved innocent. In 2009 he had an expenses bill of $640,000 from July to December and understandably, there was a complaint lodged to the Department of Finance. He said he was innocent and Tony Abbott backed him up and sure enough, he was found innocent of any wrongdoing. He said "While it has been hurtful to my family and me to read constantly in the media that I am under investigation, I am pleased that as expected, my spending has been found to be correct."
But when his former staffer James Ashby turned against him and accused him of sexual harassment and handing over signed, blank Cabcharge dockets to the driver of a hire car, he knew he was in trouble. He quickly released copies of 13 Cabcharge dockets to prove his case but it didn't work.  It just didn't add up - the dockets ran in sequential order although they were filled out on separate days and all were processed manually. 
But it gets worse, the driver he gave them to, Antwan Kaikaty, was convicted of forging Cabcharge dockets in 2002.  According to the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal, he was convicted of forging dockets, stealing a mobile phone and money from a female passenger who was also indecently assaulted.  He was sentenced to 12 months in prison but given a suspended sentence. Mr Slipper said last night he had no knowledge of Mr Kaikaty's offenses. 
He is keen to return to the Speaker's chair when Parliament resumes on May 8 and the Gillard government said they will support his decision. 
In his defence Mr Slipper said "I have used Cabcharge because it is cheaper for the taxpayer than Comcar."  When questioned about why all the dockets were processed manually instead of electronically he said "Many limo drivers take Cabcharge and only use the manual dockets because they do not have electronic facilities."  But what about the serial numbers on the dockets running in sequence?  He said "What is relevant is the journey and when it took place, not the serial number on the docket, which is irrelevant."  
So he seems to have an answer for everything.  They don't call him "Slippery Pete" for nothing.