Julie Bishop
Julie Bishop Cade Mooney

Julie Bishop grills Nicola Roxon on Slipper text scandal

DEPUTY Opposition Leader Julie Bishop used question time on Thursday to quiz Attorney-General Nicola Roxon when she became aware of the lewd text messages former Speaker Peter Slipper sent to staffer James Ashby.

Mr Slipper quit as Speaker on Tuesday night after the text messages he sent to Mr Ashby were made public by the Federal Court.

Hours earlier he had survived a vote in the Parliament to have him removed as Speaker.

The Opposition chose not to raise the matter in the Parlaiment on Wednesday, but it ditched the tactic on Thursday as it cross-examined Ms Roxon about the matter.

Ms Bishop directed three questions at Ms Roxon and later attempted to end question time so Ms Roxon could spend 15 minutes explaining what she knew about the text messages and when.

During question time the Attorney-General was asked when she first became aware of the content of the messages, why she ignored government guidelines in offering Mr Ashby $50,000 to settle his claim against the Commonwealth, and if the settlement was a tactic to stop the text messages being made public.

"Clearly, if that was the intention it didn't work. The one reason you can be sure it wasn't the intention because it did not work," Ms Roxon said in relation to the final question.

Before the settlement, Mr Ashby was suing the Commonwealth for failing to provide a safe workplace.

His sexual harassment suit against Mr Slipper is ongoing, with Justice Stephen Rares last week reserving his decision in Mr Slipper's abuse of process claim.

For this reason Ms Roxon told the house she was unable to provide detailed answers.

"These text messages that you are asking questions about are actually part of his (Justice Rares's) determination," Ms Roxon said.

"As has been publicly reported, material was provided to the government solicitors at the end of May. Undertakings were made, as required by the court, by all parties that material could only be used for the purposes of court proceedings. "That is the only circumstances upon which any material could be used."

In moving to suspend standing orders, Ms Bishop also asked that Ms Roxon explain why she described Mr Ashby's legal action as "vexatious and an abuse of process while aware of the content of the offensive SMS messages" and whether she told any other members of the government about the content of the texts.

Leader of House Anthony Albanese twice tried to gag the suspension motion debate.

Both attempts were defeated when Rob Oakeshott, Tony Windsor and Adam Bandt voted with the Coalition, but the tactic had the effect of using up the allocated time for the debate.

Mr Slipper was not present for either vote.