Peter Slipper
Peter Slipper Warren Lynam

Slipper out on a limb

NEITHER Tony Abbott nor Prime Minister Julia Gillard plans to support a free ride for Peter Slipper at the next election.

Mr Slipper has questioned whether Australian democracy was "as mature as the UK" in adopting the Westminster tradition when it came to an independent Speaker.

This would allow him to stand at the next election unopposed by the major parties.

The suggestion sparked fury from bloggers and letter writers, some of whom called for an early by-election.

Mr Slipper said Opposition Leader Tony Abbott had supported the idea of an "independent speaker in the Westminster tradition" at least four times after the last election.

"The question for the LNP is whether it is going to respect Tony Abbott's wish," he said.

The answer came through loud and clear yesterday. A spokesman for Mr Abbott said the LNP would field a candidate of its own.

"At the next election, the Liberal National Party will stand a strong candidate in the electorate of Fisher who will be committed to getting Australia back on track and restoring hope, reward and opportunity for all Australians," he said.

LNP Queensland president Bruce McIver also said the party would field its own candidate.

"From an LNP perspective we will be endorsing a candidate after the sate election who will be a member of the party," he said.

Mr McIver said he had heard of the Westminster tradition, but the party had an "obligation to the electorate of Fisher to field an LNP candidate and we will be doing it".

Ms Gillard, who helped pave the way for Mr Slipper to become Speaker, also indicated the system should not change.

"Mr Slipper has not raised the matter with the Prime Minister," her spokesman said.

"However, the proposal would be inconsistent with long-standing Australian practice."

Mr Slipper said yesterday he was "relaxed either way" as to whether the parties followed the Westminster tradition or whether he stood against various candidates.

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