Bendigo politicians play down Slipper affair

Politicians from central Victoria are distancing themselves from the controversy surrounding former federal Speaker Peter Slipper. 

Mr Slipper resigned from the role on Tuesday night after a heated and vitriolic debate in the national parliament, leaving the government with one less vote. 

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said the government should have “died of shame” for backing Mr Slipper, while Prime Minister Julia Gillard labelled Mr Abbott a misogynist. 

Member for Bendigo Steve Gibbons, as well as Labor candidate Lisa Chesters and Liberal candidate Greg Bickley, who want to replace the outgoing Bendigo MP, said the focus should turn away from scandals to policies and issues.

“It’s not a very pleasant place to be,” Mr Gibbons said of parliament. 

“I think Tony Abbott has contributed most towards the problem of a hung parliament by the way he chooses to treat people... it’s appalling. 

“He’s totally preoccupied with destroying the government and the prime minister at the expense of our national and international reputation, and he should be forever condemned for that.”

Mr Gibbons said he didn’t expect an early election.  

Mr Bickley said he wasn’t concerned by the “issues at play” in parliament.

“I’m really not concerning myself with the theatrics of parliament,” he said. “I’m focusing on the issues in Bendigo, and that’s all I’d like to say about that.”

Ms Chesters said she expected the parliament to run its full length, followed by an election late next year. 

“I agree it was the right thing for the Speaker to resign,” she said. 

“With Peter Slipper, it reflects a broader problem with politics today. 

“Most people that I’ve spoken to say they’ve found the standard of debate has dropped since Tony Abbott became leader and I agree with them on that.”

Member for Bendigo Steve Gibbons.

Member for Bendigo Steve Gibbons.