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Government pressured to call election after Slipper steps aside as Speaker

Manager of Opposition Business Chris Pyne has called on the Government to start an early election after House speaker Peter Slipper stepped aside in a shock move last week over allegations of fraud and sexual harassment.

The revelation is yet another embarrassing turn of events for the Government, which continues to lose popularity against the Liberals and Tony Abbott.

Pyne said on ABC Radio this morning the Government should call an early election in order to "put the public out of its misery".

"Well there are many options available to the Opposition. The Government is certainly at its nadir. The Government could put the public out its misery by calling an election so that at least one party had a clear mandate in the House of Representatives in order to get on and govern this country in the way that it deserves," he said.

Pyne questioned how the Government can "possibly condone the Speaker returning to the chair until these matters are properly resolved".

Slipper has stepped aside as Speaker of the House of Representatives, although returning yesterday from overseas he maintained the allegations against him are unfounded.

Slipper said in a statement he denied both allegations and any criminal behaviour.

"Once it is clear they are untrue I shall return to the speakership," he said, according to The Australian. "In relation to the civil matter, there will be an appropriate process that will resolve the matter in due course."

His position will be taken up by deputy speaker Anna Burke.

Slipper's former staffer James Ashby reportedly filed an application with the Federal Court, in which Slipper is accused of "unwelcome sexual advances, unwelcome sexual comments and unwelcome suggestions of a sexual nature".

The same application alleges Slipper misused Cabcharge vouchers, signing blank forms.

Trade minister Craig Emerson also spoke about the matter on ABC Television this morning, saying he didn't know Slipper well enough to "know everything that happens in his professional... or any other dimension of his life".

"What I do know is that he has actually discharged his responsibilities as the Speaker of the House of the Representatives very well by any standards."

However, Emerson attacked the Coalition over its charge against Slipper, citing civil claims made against Liberal politicians.

Coalition leader Tony Abbott has called on independent ministers Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor to join the Liberals in forming a minority government.

"I think the Australian public has been saying for months this is a government that should have died of shame but the only shameless people it seems are Mr Windsor and Mr Oakeshott," he told Seven.

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