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PM sidelines parliamentary pair

Australian prime minister Julia Gillard has sidelined two scandal-tarnished politicians, in a move aimed at restoring public confidence in parliament.

Ms Gillard moved after previously standing by House of Representatives speaker Peter Slipper and Labour Party MP Craig Thomson, who are facing separate criminal investigations. Both deny wrongdoing.

"I believe a line has been crossed about respect for the parliament and that has given me sufficient concern that I believe it was the right thing to act and to take the decisions that I have taken," Ms Gillard told reporters at Parliament House.

"I feel keenly that Australians are looking at this parliament and at the moment they see a dark cloud over it."

Ms Gillard said Mr Slipper had agreed to stand aside as speaker until allegations that he fraudulently misused taxi payment vouchers and that he harassed a male adviser for sex are resolved.

Mr Thomson agreed to sit in parliament as an independent while prosecutors examine allegations that he misused a union credit card on prostitutes and other personal expenses while he was a union official, she said.

Ms Gillard's minority government is expected to maintain its tenuous control over the House of Representatives, with Mr Thomson continuing to support it as an independent despite his suspension from the ruling party.


From Belfast Telegraph