Slipper resigns as Speaker

SPEAKER Peter Slipper has resigned his post, telling the parliament tonight that he was standing down.

During an emotional speech Mr Slipper said he thanked the parliament for his support during his tenure as the 27th speaker and said he was resigning with "great sadness."

"I hold no rancour," Mr Slipper said.

How it happened: Katharine Murphy blogs live at The Pulse

Mr Slipper said he believed so strongly in the importance of this house, that he was far more important than his own future.

Mr Slipper, who held back tears, paid tribute to acting speaker Anna Burke for her service that had gone beyond what was required.

"Nobody would have expected that you would have thrust upon you the responsibility you have," Mr Slipper said.

The member for Fairfax, in Queensland, paid tribute to the other deputy speaker Bruce Scott.

"[It has been] A great privilege to serve as speaker of this place," Mr Slipper said.

The former LNP member has once again been the focus of federal politics after court documents revealed that Mr Slipper sent lurid and sexist text messages to his staffer James Ashby.

Among the messages, Mr Slipper referred to female genitalia as "shell-less mussels". The messages prompted the Opposition to say he was unfit for office.

Most MPs attended the address, with Prime Minister Julia Gillard saying it was a difficult time for Mr Slipper and his family.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said everybody felt for Mr Slipper "as a human being" saying he had done the "right and honourable thing" to resign.

Mr Slipper had suspended himself from speaker while allegations of sexual harassment and improper conduct were investigated.

The former LNP member has once again been the focus of federal politics after court documents revealed that Mr Slipper sent lurid and sexist text messages to his staffer James Ashby.

Mr Slipper had earlier survived a motion to remove him from office — moved by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott — was defeated by 70 votes to 69 with the government supported by independent MPs Craig Thomson, Rob Oakeshott, Tony Windsor and Greens MP Adam Bandt.

Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie voted with the Coalition.

Mr Slipper issued a short statement after the vote.

"It was intended at the time that text messages be private between Mr Ashby and me," he said.

"A number of these text messages refer to women and nothing excuses their content ... I understand why people, particularly women, would be offended by these statements and I unreservedly apologise for them."

During the debate Mr Abbott said it was "crystal clear" Mr Slipper was no longer a fit and proper person to uphold the dignity of the Parliament.

But Ms Gillard hit back, saying Mr Abbott did not need a motion to highlight misogyny and sexism; he needed a mirror - and the motion should be rejected.

Under section 35 of the constitution, the Speaker can be removed by a vote in the House of Representatives.

MORE TO COME

WITH JUDITH IRELAND AND JESSICA WRIGHT

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