The Speaker of Australia’s House of Representatives, Rt Hon Peter Slipper, has denied that he sexually harassed a male staff member and misused parliamentary public-funds known as Cabcharges.

The story was first reported by News Limited newspapers, and has caused something of a scandal, undermining both Mr Slipper’s career and Julia Gillard’s minority government. The newspapers, owned by Mr Murdoch, have detailed the allegations with much graphic detail on all the Saturday front pages, according to Australian media.

James Ashby, 33, petitioned a Federal Court yesterday claiming that he was continually harassed by Mr Slipper since he began working for him since December 2011. He alleges that Mr Slipper recruited him solely “for the purpose of pursuing a sexual relationship.”

In his petition, Mr Ashby claims to have been open about his own homosexuality from the very beginning. In the very first weeks on the job, Mr Slipper, who is married with two adult children, is alleged to have requested massages, asked him for graphic details on his sex life, and sent him sexually suggestive text messages.

Mr Ashby, who has until now been known best for grabbing a journalist’s mobile phone at one of Mr Slipper’s press conferences and throwing it away, alleges that his employer always sent him texts signed with an ‘x’ or an ‘xxx’, and that he was once asked by the 62-year-old to shower with the bathroom door open. At another instance, Mr Slipper is supposed to have asked the younger employee whether he preferred “twinks” or “bears.”

News Limited papers also report that the government under John Howard was aware of Mr Slipper’s sexual relationship with another young male adviser, along with other allegations of sexual harassment, as early as 2003.

Mr Slipper has not yet returned to Australia from a trip abroad, and did not respond to questions put forth by journalists at a Los Angeles airport. He merely repeated the words he put on his Twitter account, saying: “All allegations are denied.”

Opposition leader Tony Abbott, who is a known opponent of marriage equality, has immediately called on Ms Gillard to suspend Mr Slipper while the charges are investigated. However, Ms Gillard relies on Mr Slipper’s support to maintain Labor’s parliamentary majority. Indeed, he was appointed to his role as the Speaker after he resigned from the Liberals, thanks to a deal with the Labor Party.

Mr Abbott’s calls have been rejected by the Government Leader of the House, Anthony Albanese, who has also denied any knowledge of the allegations. He also rejected calls for suspending Mr Slipper, emphasising what he saw as the “separation between the judicial arm and political arms of the state.”

The case is due for hearing at the Federal Court on May 21.