I won't back off PM, says Abbott




I won't back off PM, says Abbott

October 11, 2012

Phillip Coorey

Tony abbott has accused Julia Gillard of playing the gender card to deflect legitimate criticism as the sexism row between the opposition and government escalates following the resignation of Peter Slipper.

Mr Abbott, who was excoriated by Ms Gillard as sexist and misogynist in a speech on Tuesday that made international headlines, said he would not be backing off one bit.

''Just because the Prime Minister has sometimes been the victim of unfair criticism doesn't mean she can dismiss any criticism as sexism, that she can dismiss any criticism on gender grounds,'' he said.

 ''When she does wrong, as she did yesterday by leading the Peter Slipper defence team, she will be criticised.''

As senior ministers backed the Prime Minister, she gave notice that she, too, would not be backing off. This included no longer tolerating what she described as ''catcalls'' frequently made by Mr Abbott across the dispatch table during question time.

In question time yesterday, Mr Abbott called Ms Gillard ''a piece of work''. Ms Gillard complained to the new Speaker, Anna Burke, who made Mr Abbott withdraw.

Tony Abbott to Julia Gillard ... "You're a piece of work". Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

''I've had enough, Australian women have had enough, when I see sexism and misogyny, I will call them for what they are,'' Ms Gillard said.

Mr Abbott also accused Ms Gillard of milking the outrage caused by Alan Jones's offensive comments about her late father and said Labor had to ''stop hyperventilating'' about Jones.

Relations between Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott have reached a nadir after Mr Slipper resigned as Speaker on Tuesday night. His resignation followed a no-confidence motion moved by Mr Abbott. It failed by just one vote.

It was moved on the basis that Mr Slipper was unfit to occupy the position of Speaker because of text messages denigrating female genitalia that he had sent to his former aide James Ashby, who is suing him for sexual harassment.

As the Herald revealed yesterday, Mr Slipper resigned after being prevailed upon by the independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor, with the imprimatur of the leader of government business, Anthony Albanese.

Mr Windsor said yesterday he and Mr Oakeshott voted with the government to defeat the motion because Mr Slipper deserved first to be given a chance to resign.

''I think he's entitled, as any of us are, to come in and explain the situation and he did that.''

But Mr Windsor said had Mr Slipper not resigned, the independents would have voted him out next time.

A senior source told the Herald the government had also come to the view that Mr Slipper should resign but did not want to hand Mr Abbott a victory by supporting his motion.

Mr Abbott was accused of hypocrisy yesterday for saying he would accept Mr Slipper's vote while refusing to accept that of Craig Thomson, the former Labor MP sent to the crossbenches due to allegations he rorted his union credit card before entering Parliament in 2007.

Despite Mr Slipper still being subject to the sexual harassment case and a separate investigation into criminal allegations he rorted Cabcharges, Mr Abbott said the two cases were fundamentally different.

''Craig Thomson has been found by a quasi-judicial body to have misappropriated some half a million dollars in low-paid union members' money,'' he said.

Mr Slipper, he said, ''was elected as a Coalition member'' and ''his electorate would expect him to vote with the Coalition, but I think he will be highly unpredictable on the crossbenches''.


 














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