The Last Gasp is a wry take on the week’s biggest stories, every week. This week, Peter Slipper finally gets the message, the big banks taketh more than they giveth away, and more harsh comments at political dinners make you wonder if Canberra will ever really learn.
The glass Slipper
The biggest political shock for some time hit this week when embattled Federal Speaker Peter Slipper quit his post suddenly, despite winning a vote of confidence by the barest margin in parliament only hours beforehand. The final straw for Slipper was the release of a series of, frankly, yucky text messages during a Federal Court case over sexual harassment claims brought by the Speaker's ex-staffer James Ashby. The decision came as quite a surprise, given Slipper was expected to simply carry on through his disgrace, much as he had for several months previously. The vote was the result of a Coalition motion to oust him, but with the support of Labor, which he somehow won, the Speaker managed to survive 70 votes to 69. It was an interesting period for both parties, with the government spending the early part of the week hurling scorn on opposition leader Tony Abbott and broadcaster Alan Jones for what they said was sexism, before backing Slipper despite similar claims. On the other side of the chamber, the Coalition made it clear they were willing to accept Slipper's vote as an independent, despite its heavy criticism of him and refusal to provide fellow disgraced MP, Craig Thomson, with the same treatment earlier this year. It was easy to assume, in the current climate at least, that principles in politics extend only as far as such things are convenient.
The opposition went hard against Slipper all week, and the government by association, while at the same time defending Abbott against similar allegations. In a globally reported incident, Prime Minister Julia Gillard let fly with a diatribe in Question Time, accusing the opposition leader of being unfit to lecture on sexism and misogyny given his track record on the issue, which certainly saw the opposition leader's trademark grin drip slowly off his face. The week had started well for Abbott, with better poll results leading the Coalition to suggest voters have seen through Labor's smear campaign accusing the opposition leader of sexism. It was a brave stance, given the most blatant campaign of the week was the one that saw Abbott’s wife Margie plonked in front of breakfast TV cameras and on the front of newspapers all over Australia, pointing out that Abbott was indeed not sexist.
Are you sensing a theme yet?
Just back to that bit about Craig Thompson – yeah, the bit where months ago the Liberals disowned his vote leading to comical scenes of Abbott franticly stumbling out of parliament like he was being chased by a banshee. It turns out the opposition want it now. You know, given the recent political scandal talk has died down and all. That makes sense. Unfortunately for the man who made the request, Liberal frontbencher Matthias Corman, the media got hold of the offending letter and went to town on it. Corman has since admitted it was a mistake, and blamed a database error that sent the request to all crossbench MPs. Yes, that old database that clearly hasn’t been updated for yon... well except for, you know, a day before that, when Slipper was presumably added to the list.
The other foot
As expected, Australia’s big banks ignored various warnings and advice at the end of last week, refusing to pass on the Reserve Bank of Australia’s 25 basis point interest rate reduction in full. If that wasn’t bad enough, news emerged this week that even though the loan rates have missed the mark, interest rates paid to depositors at a number of lenders have been lowered the full 25 per cent. The banks have not attempted to blame funding costs for the move, or anything really, most probably because they couldn’t give a stuff. Elsewhere on the rates scene, ANZ has suggested that interest rate cuts are not the only tool the central bank can use to promote growth. The lender has urged the RBA to look for other, way better tools. Like ones that don’t cost it money.
Not just a river
Sticking with the RBA, governor Glenn Stevens admitted to a parliamentary hearing this week that the management of banknote subsidiaries Securency and Note Printing Australia, currently embroiled in a bribery scandal, could have been looked into more closely when the claims first arose. Like, they could have spotted some of the multiple corruption red flags. That would’ve been good. Former RBA governor Ric Battelino also copped a grilling at the hearing, but dismissed claims he advised former NPA employee Brian Hood to remain quiet on the allegations, in the same manner he dismissed prior knowledge of the claims back in August. Later in the week, he denied all knowledge of the hearing or even a basic understanding of what the RBA was.
Mother of god, really?
Incredulous news emerged later in the week surrounding a comedian who made offensive references to Abbott chief of staff Peta Credlin at a union event in Canberra, which was attended by the PM and some senior Labor ministers. It’s baffling to imagine that someone would think this kind of thing was a good idea. It’s not as if there’s been anything remotely similar to this in the news cycle recently, right? I mean… geez.
You’ve said it so much now
Fortescue and the Australian Securities and Investment Commission are planning follow up discussions in the wake of the decision last week that cleared chairman Twiggy Forrest of breaching continuous disclosure rules. Fortescue sources said that now the company has successfully changed the meaning of the word ‘binding’, they are looking at similar action on terms such as ‘payment’ and ‘ownership’. ASIC chairman Greg Medcraft said Forrest had even got in contact with the watchdog following the decision, to offer to work with the body on continuous disclosure issues. And also rub it in a little.
• Administrators for Gunns say answers for creditors hit by the company's collapse are still weeks away, unless the question happens to be "is my money completely goneski?”
• Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie has the most difficult name to pronounce in Australian politics.
• And finally, Liberal MP Alex Somlyay has denied negotiating with Labor to replace Peter Slipper as speaker, insisting he would much rather keep all his foul text messages between him and his staff.