Former Speaker Peter Slipper.
Former Speaker Peter Slipper. Warren Lynam

Let's get back to running the country, MP says

MEMBER for Flynn Ken O'Dowd has described the dramatic scenes in federal parliament yesterday as controversial speaker Peter Slipper resigned.

Mr O'Dowd said it had been an interesting day.

"It was again another day that came out of the blue," he said.

"Of course question time was done all over. The whole Slipper saga was attacked from our side and we said virtually that the man was not to hold office.

"The government came back and said, look while it's a court action, we don't want to take action, on the lurid text messages he had been sending around his staff, although they knew they were available for everyone to hear and see in the paper.

"I was at a function for rural women when the word came through we all had to return to the chamber. This was about half past 5 yesterday.

"Peter Slipper was back in the chair. He stood up in a pretty sad sort of solemn occasion, he resigned.

"And I think for his family, his wife and his kids and his mother and father who are still alive, I think it was the honourable thing to do, in light of what had happened."

Labor's Anna Burke, who has been standing in for Mr Slipper, was elected the new speaker, putting the government's position on a knife edge once again.

"So this all takes time of course. It was a late night last night," Mr O'Dowd said.

"We will try and get the government back on track today. Get a bit of order in the house and get down to doing business.

"Government business and Australian business has been neglected while all this interruption to Parliament has been going on.

"It's been a pretty sad indictment I think on all parliamentarians in the house, because we're here to run the country, and of late, since the Slipper saga and the great Thompson saga has been going on, it's created a hell of a lot of aversions, and we're not really here doing what we're supposed to be doing.

"So once we get the Craig Thompson saga out of the road, surely we can settle down and do what the people want us to do and that is run the country."

Mr O'Dowd said he voted against Mr Slipper staying on as speaker.

"I voted with the Coalition, that he should resign," he said.

"I think really, in light of what's happened, I think it was really the only thing he could have done.

"I can't see any way out. As you know the office of speaker is the third highest level for any politician in Australia.

"There's the Governor General, the Prime Minister and then the speaker.

"And the speaker is a very important role, not only in conducting business in the house, but he also conducts all the dignitaries from overseas. He organises functions and meets and greets with other politicians, and that's from the top to the bottom. So it's a very prestigious position."

Labor now holds a one seat majority in the house, but Mr O'Dowd said the Coalition would go along as usual.

"We'll go along with new bills if the country is going to benefit, but we won't if we don't think it will benefit the nation as a whole."

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