Yesterday brought another disgraceful incident of online sexist abuse (aimed at the Prime Minister), and another round of accusations and counter-accusations about the worsening, personalised tone of public debate. Is Julia Gillard the real victim, or Tony Abbott? Alan Jones or free speech? It's become a morass.
Parliament, returning today, is likely to be an unedifying affair.
We can be sure that no-one will be looking to stood-aside Speaker Peter Slipper for guidance. Yesterday, hundreds of pages of his text messages to and from accuser James Ashby were revealed: "The grossly offensive messages about women’s genitalia from Slipper will make it almost impossible for the government to reinstate him in the Speaker’s chair as he expects if he is cleared of allegations," writes Pamela Williams in the AFR.
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Text Barrage Reveals Slipper’s Secrets
"A blockbuster affidavit filed in a Sydney courtroom last week has the potential to shake the federal government to its teeth, citing thousands of telephone text messages, many of which reveal the standard bearer of Australia’s parliament, Speaker Peter Slipper, sexually baiting and pressing former aide James Ashby for information about his private life. Ashby… revealed the entire contents of his phone messages in the affidavit."