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Australian speaker weakens gov't grip by quitting

Associated Press Modified: October 9, 2012 at 10:15 am •  Published: October 9, 2012

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The speaker of Australia's Parliament resigned Tuesday under criticism over a sexual harassment lawsuit against him, weakening the government's tenuous grip on power.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard's center-left Labor Party government recruited Peter Slipper from opposition ranks to the speaker's post last November in a move that effectively gave her administration a two-seat majority on most votes in the House of Representatives.

Her minority government is trailing the conservative opposition in opinion polls and could be forced to hold early elections if it loses a no-confidence motion in the 150-seat chamber.

Because a speaker can only vote to break a tie, Slipper's appointment freed up the vote of his predecessor, Harry Jenkin, for Labor.

Since then, independent lawmaker Andrew Wilkie withdrew his support for the government because Gillard broke a promise to enact legislation to protect gambling addicts from slot machines.

Slipper resigned hours after surviving an unprecedented opposition motion to remove him Tuesday by one vote.

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