THE federal opposition scored a decisive political points victory in the Parliament on Tuesday, but it came on a day that only further eroded the nation’s confidence in our Parliament.
Peter Slipper’s resignation on Tuesday evening came after one of the most heated - and personal - debates heard in the chamber for many years.
Once the insults from both sides had been silenced, the government defeated by just a single vote the opposition’s motion to sack Mr Slipper over a series of offensive text message which had been made public during investigations into the relationship between Mr Slipper and one of his former staffers.
In defending Mr Slipper, Australia’s first female prime minister found herself in the uncomfortable position of having to defend a man guilty of the most disgusting language used to describe the women around him.
The government’s line was that it did not defend what Mr Slipper had said in those texts, but did not want to pre-empt an ongoing court case. But these texts have been made public and stand uncontested.
Tuesday afternoon’s vote was really a question of whether someone who used such language was a fit and proper person to hold the position of speaker.
And by defeating the motion, the government showed where it stood on that question.
But any joy the Labor Party derived from that small win on Tuesday afternoon would have been short-lived, as Mr Slipper fell on his sword just hours later. And what really hurt for the government was the fact that had secured a win for political expediency over principle during the afternoon, only to lose that fight as well by the evening. That left the opposition able to claim wins on the grounds of both principle and pragmatism, a rare double in this strange government.
The real victim on Tuesday, though, was the quality of political debate in Australia. Both leaders gave powerful addresses during the debate over Mr Slipper’s future, but neither of those addresses was focused on Australia’s future.
They both sought only to degrade their political opponents. What a sad, sad day for all of us.