Harassement Lawsuit Against Australia’s Slipper Dismissed

A sexual harassment lawsuit against Peter Slipper, the former speaker of Australia’s parliament, was dismissed today in federal court as a judge ruled the claim was politically motivated.

James Ashby sued the government and Slipper in April, claiming he’d been harassed and that his contract as an advisor had been breached. Ashby also claimed Slipper misused his expense account, a criminal allegation that was dropped from the suit and referred to the Australian Federal Police.

Federal Court Justice Steven Rares dismissed the lawsuit, saying in his ruling the proceedings were “an abuse of the process of the court.”

Slipper resigned from the speaker’s post in October after text messages containing crude comments about women were made public in court proceedings. The matter has proved a distraction for Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s minority government, which has relied on Slipper to boost its numbers in the lower house of parliament.

The Office of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions said today that it is “actively considering” the allegations Slipper misused his expense account and declined to comment further. Conviction of a criminal offense, carrying a jail term of more than a year, would force Slipper to resign his parliamentary seat.

The case is: James Hunter Ashby v. The Commonwealth of Australia. NSD580/2012. Federal Court of Australia (Sydney).

To contact the reporter on this story: Joe Schneider in Sydney at jschneider5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Douglas Wong at dwong19@bloomberg.net

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