PETER Slipper canvassed the option of quitting politics altogether – sparking a by-election – on the night he resigned as Speaker as he was counselled by Kevin Rudd.
But the Queensland MP could not stomach the idea of handing over his seat to the Liberal’s Mal Brough, even though retiring would reduce the pressure on his family.
The long-standing and deep friendship between the former Speaker and Mr Rudd, who like Opposition leader Tony Abbott attended Mr Slipper and wife Inge’s wedding, was again on display on the night he quit his post.
Despite the venom across the political divide over the Speaker and the decision of the independents to force his resignation, MPs from all sides of politics rushed to counsel Mr Slipper after his tearful resignation speech on Tuesday night, including Mr Rudd and Liberal MPs Patrick Secker and Mal Washer, who later praised the former Labor leader’s compassion.
“Kevin was terrific. He went through how he felt when he was dumped as prime minister,” Dr Washer said.
“He said it was like entering a dark tunnel. But at the end of the day you do come out. He was sensational and I was really impressed. Peter was devastated. He was shell-shocked. It was admirable what he (Mr Rudd) did.”
A priest was also called to talk to Mr Slipper.
Had the independent MP quit politics, his seat would most likely have gone to Mr Brough, who was exposed as having talks with James Ashby in the lead-up to the filing of sexual harassment charges.