Julia Gillard's speech on Tuesday is the subject of much debate, and for good reason. It was an important moment in the life of this parliament.
The press gallery interpreted the speech critically, describing it in these terms: to defend the government's numbers, Gillard was prepared to protect Slipper. Her attack on Abbott was a cynical diversion.
But this interpretation ignores one crucial piece of information. Government strategists, including Gillard, knew in advance of her speech that Slipper's position was untenable. According to several accounts, this was widely recognised in government ranks; Phil Coorey goes so far as to say his decision to resign was supported by the government.
Why is this important? Because it makes a nonsense of the notion that Gillard was 'protecting' Slipper.
At no stage in her speech did Gillard defend Peter Slipper's conduct – actually, she said she was offended by the content of the messages. Nor did she argue that he should remain in the Speaker's position.
She used her speech to make the point that the parliament should not accept the Opposition's motion, because the government considered it hypocritical. She didn't want the Opposition to claim a moral victory – which is quite different from defending Slipper.
Nick Feik Politicoz Editor
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