Topics:  bob brown, federal government, parliament, peter slipper, speaker

Brown surprised Slipper was promoted

Retiring Greens Senator Bob Brown.
Retiring Greens Senator Bob Brown.

RETIRING Greens Senator Bob Brown said he was not consulted prior to Peter Slipper being promoted to the role of Speaker of Federal Parliament.

Senator Brown, who struck a deal after the 2010 election that helped Prime Minister Julia Gillard form a minority government, told ABC program Qanda on Monday he was "surprised" upon learning Mr Slipper had been elevated to the role in November.

And he hinted that had he been consulted he would have cautioned Ms Gillard against the shock move.

"I wouldn't have made that choice, but she (Ms Gillard) did," said Senator Brown, who will retire from the Senate in June.

Mr Slipper, a former Liberal MP, stood down as Speaker on Sunday amid allegations he misused taxpayer-funded Cabcharge dockets.

He also stands accused of sexually harassing former staff member James Ashby, details of which were revealed in documents lodged with the Federal Court of Australia on Friday.

Senator Brown said the fact numbers in the Parliament were so tight meant Mr Slipper's alleged behaviour was attracting more attention than it might under normal circumstances.

"I've had two fellow senators from the Coalition who have been convicted of various minor ... matters in the last 12 months and we've heard nothing about it, almost," Senator Brown said.

"The closer one gets to being able to exercise power, which brings in government or drops them out, the bigger the concentration on that person."

Expanding on this point, Senator Brown urged Opposition leader Tony Abbott, who has been relentless in his calls this week for Mr Slipper to stand down as Speaker, to "take on" the churches over allegations of child abuse.

"If you're going to pursue somebody who's got claims against him by a 33-year-old male, how about pursuing the people in churches ... who have done the wrong thing by 13-year-old males and females. How about having them suspended," Senator Brown said.

Senator Brown said he believed Labor supported Mr Slipper's ascension to Speaker to protect its numbers in the House of Representatives, and not because it wanted to walk away from its deal with independent MP Andrew Wilkie to introduce poker machine reform.

"I think they were giving themselves one-seat insurance," Senator Brown said.

"And now without Mr Slipper there they've still got the ability to get legislation through Parliament, but they're back to the very close arrangement that they had before."


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