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Ashby v Slipper: court dismissal and no winners — least of all taxpayers

There have been no winners from the James Ashby v Peter Slipper sexual harassment case, which was thrown out of the Federal Court this morning. Crikey was in court for the verdict.

Finally, what many suspected has been confirmed: the court action brought against former speaker Peter Slipper was a political conspiracy to destroy him by the Queensland Liberal-National Party, and that James Ashby was a small but perfectly formed Trojan Horse who was wheeled into Slipper’s office to blow it up.

The Federal Court’s Justice Steven Rares this morning found that the s-xual harassment proceedings brought by Ashby earlier this year were an “abuse of the process of the court” and that the original application was used by Ashby “for the predominant purpose of causing significant public, reputational and political damage to Mr Slipper”.

To allow these proceedings to remain in the Court would bring the administration of justice into disrepute among right-thinking people and would be manifestly unfair to Mr Slipper,” Rares found.

He found “a party cannot be allowed to misuse the Court’s process by including scandalous and damaging allegations, knowing that they would receive very significant media coverage, and then seek to regularise his, her or its pleading by subsequently abandoning those claims”.

Justice Rares goes on to say that the court must always be available to hear bona fide claims of s-xual harassment. But Ashby’s “pre-dominant purpose in bringing the proceedings was not a proper one”. He also ordered Ashby to pay all of the costs of the proceeding, which will be substantial.

Ashby, who sat impassively during the reading of the judgment in the Sydney court, said afterwards he would appeal: “With my lawyers we will study the judgment in detail, but at this stage we intend to appeal this regrettable decision.”

There can be no winners out this situation, including the taxpayers of Australia, who paid out $50,000 to Ashby for his s-xual harassment claims only recently. The roots of the issue go back to the Queensland Liberal and National parties, whose political disunity now resemble a rather uninteresting, tropical version of The Leopard.

No one comes out of this action looking good. Slipper, otherwise known as “Slippery Pete”, is a political turncoat who has sent a series of text messages which slandered every member of the female gender and some bivalves. Ashby, whose qualifications for employment stemmed from his experience at a Queensland strawberry farm, appears to be a patsy who was manipulated.

And Mal Brough, a former minister in the Howard government, seems to have adopted Graham Richardson’s “whatever it takes” mantra to getting back into politics. The fact that this has now all become public is testament to the political ineptitude of the Queensland LNP; if the NSW ALP does you over, it rarely sees the light of day. It appears that everyone had a secret agenda, or what my mother would call “lacking a strong moral compass.”

According to the judgment, once Slipper accepted the role as speaker of the House of Representatives in late 2011 he became a marked man. The hung Parliament has led to some strange alliances, and once the ALP realised that it could no longer accede to Andrew Wilkie’s demands on poker machines, it started hunting for an alternative.

Enter Slipper, who represented the Queensland seat of Fisher as a Liberal and a National from 1993, and whose idiosyncratic personal issues were well-known in Canberra. When the PM recruited Slipper in 2011, she bought herself some breathing space by eliminating his Coalition vote.

At the time Slipper took the speaker’s chair, mace and substantial allowance, he was facing a possible challenge for his seat from Brough, who was desperate to get back into Parliament after being turfed out in the 2007 Ruddslide.

In the action, Ashby alleged Slipper had s-xually harassed him verbally, in text messages (aka “s-xting”) and by stroking his arm. He also alleged Slipper had had a consensual s-xual relationship with a young male staff member in 2003 and recorded an encounter with him on video. The final allegation was Ashby had been forced to watch Slipper sign multiple Cabcharge vouchers and hand them to the Comcar driver, and that Ashby intended to report this to the AFP.

Slipper alleged that Ashby had brought the proceedings in combination with one or more of Karen Doane (a co-worker on Slipper’s staff), Brough, News Limited journalist Steve Lewis, media consultant Anthony McClennan and Harmers Workplace Lawyers, for an improper purpose. That purpose was to form part of a political attack on Slipper to aid the LNP and/or Brough so that Ashby and Doane could get new jobs in the LNP.

About 270 pages of Ashby’s text messages were submitted, some of which included the implication that Slipper wanted to have a closer relationship. Ashby appears to have rebuffed this suggestion, but the next day has gone to see Mark McArdle, a senior frontbencher in the then Queensland state LNP opposition.

There was no hint … of Mr Ashby feeling upset as a result of s-xual harassment. Rather those texts suggested that he was planning to use the record of his texts with Mr Slipper to empower others in a way that would affect the balance of power in the House of Representatives. Mr Ashby asked one friend whether his contemplated action would result in his being ‘rewarded or condemned’,” the judge said.

The judgment says that straight after the March 24 Queensland state election, which was won by the LNP, Ashby told McArdle he had decided to press ahead with what they had talked about. Ashby and Doane made contact with Lewis. ”Previously, Mr Ashby and Mr Slipper had expressed very hostile feelings to one another about both Mr Brough and Mr Lewis,” it states.

Ashby and Doane got down to work. By March 29 they were supplying Brough and Lewis with copies of Slipper’s diary entries, and Brough was helping them with job opportunities within the LNP. Lewis got his front-page stories and Brough discussed with Ashby the hiring of s-xual harassment experts Harmers as his lawyers. Justice Rares said:

Mr Lewis appears to have pursued, enthusiastically, the stories potentially available to him based on Mr Ashby’s and Ms Doane’s information. However, I am not satisfied that Mr Lewis shared with them the purpose of advancing the political interests of Mr Brough or the LNP or of aiding Mr Ashby or Ms Doane in their future prospects of advancement or preferment. It is more likely that Mr Lewis was focused on obtaining good copy for stories to sell newspapers.”

However, Rares dismissed News Ltd’s argument that Lewis’ famous “We will get him” text did not refer to Slipper. News had argued the text referred to a Commonwealth car driver.

The judge concluded that “the evidence established that Mr Ashby acted in combination with Ms Doane and Mr Brough when commencing the proceedings in order to advance the interests of the LNP and Mr Brough … Mr Ashby and Ms Doane set out to use the proceedings as part of their means to enhance or promote their prospects of advancement or preferment by the LNP, including using Mr Brough to assist them in doing so.”

Slipper did not appear in court this morning but was represented by Simon Berry, a Sydney partner at Berrry Buddle Wilkins solicitors. Berry said outside the hearing room that was acting as “amicus curiae” or a friend of the court, because he had not yet been formally engaged. He said he would speak to Slipper to see if he would make a statement but, as Crikey went to deadline, no statement had been made.

  • 51
    Mike Flanagan
    Posted Thursday, 13 December 2012 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    One wonders whether Mal Brough could be be dragged before Parliament for contempt of same. J Rares was very emphatic and scathing in his judgment.

  • 52
    Posted Thursday, 13 December 2012 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    the court action brought against former speaker Peter Slipper was a political conspiracy to destroy him by the Queensland Liberal-National Party”

    This phrase from the article above is incomplete.
    It should include the words …”with the complicit assistance of the Federal COALition and the Australian mass media”.

    I shall now wait with bated breath for the same smear/innuendo/speculation/”questions must be answered” demands to be directed at the following - Abbott, Pyne,and several others, various media organizations [Crikey included], that has featured our media in its smear campaigns against the govt.
    I am sure and certain dozens of journos will all relentlessly seek out the ‘truth’, all in ‘the public interest’ of course, and when Tony tries to present his mantra at a stunt he will get interupted by ‘where were you on the night the e-mail was sent by X to Y?”

    Time for some ‘balance’ in our media.

  • 53
    Posted Thursday, 13 December 2012 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Found it strange how little attention this issue got on Sunrise this morning - surely the media aren’t ignoring it becuase they got it so wrong and the truth will hurt their poster boy?

  • 54
    Greg Oakes
    Posted Thursday, 13 December 2012 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Maybe it’s time for a twitter barrage into the commercial MSM to pump up the volume (whoops - showing my age there…)

  • 55
    Posted Thursday, 13 December 2012 at 10:47 am | Permalink


    Slipper is no longer speaker he is yesterdays news. It doesn’t matter what the outcome of the court case was, the Libs have already won this little battle of destroying the turncoats little aspiration to be the best paid public servant in Parliament House.

    Of course if you bother to go back to my posts all the way back at the start of the year about this I predicted Ashby was a good looking man parachuted into Slippers office by the LNP because they knew Slipper had a history… and surprise surprise, slipper took it hook line and sinker.

    Thats not the LNP’s fault Slipper can’t control himself…

  • 56
    Posted Thursday, 13 December 2012 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Jimmy… it is yesterdays news.

    Slippers gone from the speakers chair and won’t be back.

  • 57
    Posted Thursday, 13 December 2012 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Abetz still sits on senate inquiries and Reith gets air time with the ABC , The Drum . Brough will be elected it seems and no doubt will get some position in the coalition , opposition or government . The Howard years never went away , just had a short break while they settled on Abbott . Same deceit , same weasel words and same lack of integrity .

  • 58
    Posted Thursday, 13 December 2012 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    Geewizz - Yesterdays News hey? I agree that Slipper won’t be back in the speakers chair but that doesn’t make this yesterdays news, the Libs now have questions to answer and it makes it very difficut for them to keep on the smear campaign when they have a federal court judgement implicating the party and an endorsed candidate of abusing the judicial process for political gains.

    And you belittled my arguments on the AWU case because they were similar to those used in Slippers case, now my arguments in Slippers case have been proven to be correct are you willing to conced they are correct for the ridiculous AWU case as well?

    Also the whole lib spiel is this govt has all these scandals, well they can’t argue the slipper one any more, they can’t make a case in AWU, they better hope the Thompson one doesn’t fall over.

  • 59
    The Pav
    Posted Thursday, 13 December 2012 at 11:11 am | Permalink


    What is not yesterday’s news is that a dishonest attempt was made to use the court system to subvert the will of parlaiment.

    There is clear indications of a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top of the LNP.

    Not only that but the “foot soldiers ’ involved were clearly motivated by not only by party political aims ( whilst in the pay of the Australian Taxpayer) but also for purely venal purposes.

    That this atack on democracy was purputrated by the LNP is hardly surprising wjen a senior member like Pyne finds the concept of encouraging electors to enrol to be a rort.

    Obviously the idea of people voting is an anathema to the LNP and that their version of democracy is that only votes for them count.

    Then again considering who you work for GeeWhizz we can only expect you to parrot the same old dishonest party line

  • 60
    Posted Thursday, 13 December 2012 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    Geewizz - You are missing the point;

    1) Slippers speakership is dead but the libs have now been implicated in a conspiracy to abuse the judicial process for political ends - this is much bigger than what Gillard did 20 years ago, possibly ends Broughs career and puts the heat on Abbott, Bishop, Pyne and especially Brandis.

    2) you belittled my arguments regarding Gillard becusue they were similar to what I had said about Slipper and “we all know how that turned out” but now it’s turned out very differently to what you expected and my arguments were shown to be correct.

    3) Now given the libs have spent so much capital and dubious scandals 2 of which look like blowing up in their faces what are they going to do now?

    4) They may have got Slipper out of the speakers chair but he will vote with the ALP so what have they achieved?

  • 61
    Posted Thursday, 13 December 2012 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    You want it to be yesterdays news but its not that simple . The BS of the coalition regarding the PM , questions to answer yet no specific question . Well in the Ashby vexatious charge there are specific questions to answer and numerous people who need to answer them . Brough , Pyne , Hockey , McArdle and of course Abbott . I,m sure you will be aggressive in seeking to have these questions answered as you are in all matters directed at Labor or the Greens . More likely you will affirm your unused moniker , truthless .

  • 62
    Posted Thursday, 13 December 2012 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    Will we see apologies now from Coalition and media alike?

    No…of course not.

    The media?? The popular Murdoch press have already forgotten this story, it never happened. The Australian is dealing with it, but no one reads that anyway.

  • 63
    Posted Thursday, 13 December 2012 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Daily Tele - Nothing
    Courier Mail - Nothing
    Herald Sun - Nothing

    No collusion here guys, move along. Only one of the biggest bombshells of the year. Murdoch press doing it’s best, once again, for Abbott. You have to wonder how well the Libs would be doing under him if not for their consistent and loyal backing of the Liberal Party.

  • 64
    Posted Thursday, 13 December 2012 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    MIKE FLANAGAN: “Time for some ‘balance’ in our media”. Ha, ha, ha, ha!

    The Coalition can, and will, continue to churn out these ‘Ashbygates’ as long as they wish to. They’ve got both ends of the scenario sewn up. Yes, Ashby is guilty BUT the great Oz public reads the MSM, and the MSM is the house organ for the Coalition. Even if Erich Abetz-and Mal Brough and Tony Abbott were to apologise for their rotten, rotten lies; lies told in order to toss out the elected government, the MSM would ignore them.

  • 65
    Posted Thursday, 13 December 2012 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Wow, GeeWiz, you’ve swallowed some Grattan today! Nice of you to show up at last and wave away an embarrassing court result.

    Your justification that the case was irrelevant to the main political game is precisely the attitude that the judge condemned.

    You’ve also betrayed your nepotistic thinking. Democratic government should be for all people, not just to reward mates and punish turncoats. People with your thinking do no deserve to be running the joint.

  • 66
    Posted Thursday, 13 December 2012 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    What you mean, is that the precious Canberra Press gallery has backed a loser and is now going to throw a dummy spit and say “no one won”.

  • 67
    Posted Thursday, 13 December 2012 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    The following was on Yahoo news-
    Several Labor frontbenchers have taken a swipe at The Daily Telegraph’s coverage of the story.

    It revealed the initial sexual harassment claims on page one but today reported the court ruling on page 17.
    “This story broke, very consciously, on a Saturday morning in The Daily Telegraph - a big splash, unlike today. I note it’s on page 17, after some dog riding a bike on page 15,” Mr Albanese said.

  • 68
    Posted Thursday, 13 December 2012 at 6:51 pm | Permalink


    Attack on Democracy”

    This turncoat was voted in as a conservative LNP member and ended up dumping his electorates wishes simply to pursue his own retirement fund.

    Not only that but Harry Jenkins whom this guy axed from the top job was one of the best speakers this country has ever had and instead we got some old pervert to replace him who compares a jar of muscles to a ladies privates.

    If that’s “democracy” according to the left then you guys need your heads read. BTW, the AWU and Craig Thomson scandal are not grand Lib Party conspiracy theories or setups… real people had real money stolen by real union heavies from real union members… you lefties will need to do better than blame Abbott, wheres the money gone fellas?

  • 69
    Hamis Hill
    Posted Thursday, 13 December 2012 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    All the conspirators in the Guy Fawkes Gunpowder Plot took some time to round up even after a list of names was found.
    The parallels extend to the religious propensities of those presently wishing to absolutely blow-up a big, bad government.
    Labor should remember, remember the fifth of November for comparison with the Brough-Ashby Plot.
    And perhaps Labor should also play Tchaikovski’s 1812 overture,(could become Gillard’s theme song) two centuries later, because Abbott is sure as hell in retreat, with a cruel Slipper winter of defamation actions taking its toll on the troops.
    How many will survive till the next election?

  • 70
    Hamis Hill
    Posted Thursday, 13 December 2012 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    Would it now be appropriate for Tchaikovski’s 1812 Overture to become Gillard’s 2012 theme song?
    As Abbott begins his slow retreat from any prospects of victory?

  • 71
    Hamis Hill
    Posted Thursday, 13 December 2012 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    Is Abbott the Guy Fawk-es of 2012?

  • 72
    Lyn Gain
    Posted Thursday, 13 December 2012 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    At last, a judge with guts. Who is this Steven Rares, he’s wonderful, is he already married! I too have said from the beginning that it was as clear as day that it was Ashby playing the agent provocateur and silly Slipper being conned. And still Crikey as well as Lenore Taylor in today’s SMH keep perpetuating the myth that Slipper denigrated women with his factual remarks about shell-less mussels and briny taste – when he actually suggested that Ashby give them a try to turn him from his ‘wayward’ ways. And yes, the silence from the Murdoch media and the Opposition is fascinating. Bravo Steven Rares – even the Government was amazed that the judgement was fair and not mealy mouthed – I bet Nicola wished she’s made a better call on our $50,000. Personally, I was totally delighted and astounded at the judgement. Maybe the next thing is that Thompson will be vindicated.

  • 73
    Malcolm Harrison
    Posted Thursday, 13 December 2012 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

    to suggest that slipper sent text messages that slandered all women is itself slanderous.
    perhaps these texts are widely available. i haven’t seen them, except the references to mussels, which is accurate at least as far as the taste is concerned. what are the others? i have been highly irritated since the beginning of the ‘texts’ affair by the covert references to these texts as though the english language and biology and our sensibilities have suddenly parted company. why is everybody in such a tizz about them.

  • 74
    Posted Friday, 14 December 2012 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Not least the wilful mixing of Ashby’s texts as “Slipper’s”?

    And how many names are there for “male members” - and I don’t mean our elected representatives (no matter how they carry on …….. oh wait a minute….?) - for a start.

  • 75
    Lyn Gain
    Posted Friday, 14 December 2012 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Malcolm, The reason everybody is in a tizz about them is that everybody has dirty minds (an automatic ashamed snigger when female genitalia are mentioned) and can’t separate fact and insult. If you really want to read what was actually said, try this link, but believe me it is very tedious

    For the short version, I include below a comment I posted on Crikey in early October (for some reason the SMH didn’t use it when I sent it first to the letters editor).

    “Titillated by what dreadful things Peter Slipper must have said to bring about such indignant revulsion by the Leader of the Opposition, and such coyness by the SMH, other media and parliament in refusing to reveal Slipper’s words to the tender public, I looked up the Book of Evidence Annexure published on the internet by the Federal Court to read Slipper’s own words. What an anticlimax. Far from reviling women, Slipper said two things on which the accusations of ‘vile’ and ‘misogynist’ are presumably based. Firstly he said that Mal Brough was a c***. I bet he’s not the first or last to say that. In that context he then mused philosophically about why people used the c word pejoratively when many men were in fact fond of the phenomena – quite an enlightened view there I thought. The second set of comments was when he said that female genitalia looked like ‘shell less mussels’ which he also described as tasting ‘salty’ and ‘briny’ – a factual description. He didn’t say he didn’t like mussels, and even suggested that Ashby might take in interest in them to divert him from his ‘wayward’ ways. Where’s the misogyny and what’s so vile?”

  • 76
    The Pav
    Posted Friday, 14 December 2012 at 10:27 am | Permalink


    Your attempts to exonerate your odious part are as dishonest as the party and its leader

    Jenkins wanted to step down. Slipper didn’t knife him. Simple common sense would tell you that but apparently you can only handle simple

    Next some crude texts do not make anybody a pervert and many women have sad they were not offended

    Then you rabbit on about the AWU. and after 20 years still nothing more than ” there are questions to answer” you you and your dishonest leader can’t even enunciate them and when questions have been put by the whole press gallery ( hardley Gillard supporters on two separate occaisions ) they were answered.

    Unlike Abbott who promptly ran and hid when the press wanted to ask him about the Slipper judgement. Shouldn’t surprised as cowardice & dishonesty run together which is why you are such a lover of Abbott

    Then there’s Thompson wow. He says he’s innocent ( just like Slipper ) did and te smart thing would be to allow due process to take its course but no doing the smart thing is not for the likes of you.

    You and Abbott ( I am assuming you are separate people) are more than happy to make any recless accusation for political gain without regard to the consequences. That’s the attack on democracy. It works best when people act in good faith.not something Abbott does.

    I would point out that there has been a myraid of investigations into Thompson over years and whenever the eviudence is challenged it is shown to be false. Remember the Prostitute who said she was with him but then was actually overseas!!

    I see your adored leader is overseas to “raise the morale” of our troops.

    I hope our service people are happy with the concept that if they die in the service of our country ( even you Geewhizz) it’s OK I mean as Abbott says “SH*t Happens”

  • 77
    Posted Friday, 14 December 2012 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    Here’s the thing: Courts are bloody expensive so unless you are rich you can’t bring a case without some wealthy well connected friends. Ashby made some well connected friends but that allowed the judge to say he was politically motivated. Without those friends, he couldn’t have done it. Moral is don’t use the courts, ever. Slipper Ashby and the lnp are the losers here. The lawyers and labor are the winners.

  • 78
    John Kotsopoulos
    Posted Friday, 14 December 2012 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Marilyn Shepherd is quite correct. Slipper and Ashby exchanged some off colour banter about women’s genitalia. Something about unshelled mussels. Wow.

    The Beatles in their song Penny Lane referred to “fish and finger pie” which as every Fab Four fan knows is Scouse slang for………..

  • 79
    Posted Friday, 14 December 2012 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Mii - That is just complete rubbish - the judge didn’t find that the LNP had just helped with his costs - they found they had colluded and acted for political motivated reasons.

    The judge also gave the lawyer a spray for his use of the media to almost blackmail Slipper into settling just like they did with David Jones ex CEO.

  • 80
    Posted Friday, 14 December 2012 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Surely the lesson is not to use the courts for a vexatious and politically motivated intent . The LNP got their moneys worth initially but will the investment sour in the aftermath ? I cannot imagine any business or organisation would hire Slippers ex staffers just on the trust issue alone besides the rest of their venal attitudes ? Wouldn,t stop the LNP though , essential qualities for them .

  • 81
    The Pav
    Posted Friday, 14 December 2012 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    I’ve just heard on ABC News radio Julie Bishop admit Asby had contacted her office about a month before lodging his complaint.

    Ms Bishop said Ashby rang twice and he was advised to contact the Dept of Finance as this was the ultimate employer.

    Ms Bishop also said that she did not know if she had actually met Ashby. I’ll accept that as pollies meet a lot of people & it would be easy to forget but in my experience pollies are actually brilliant at remembering people. It’s how they garner votes & support by giving that personal touch. It also seems strange that somebody on the staff of somebody as significant as the speaker is not memorable to the Deputy Opposition leader but as I said I’ll take her word for it.

    There are some questions that need answering

    Why did Ashby ring twice? The advice was basic so what was hard to understand
    Did the staff member advise Ms Bishop of the contact?
    If not why not as it is pretty significant?
    If the staffer did advise Ms Bishop then did she discuss the matter with anybody else?
    Did she advise her leader? If not why not it was very relevant
    Did she discuss it with Hockey?
    Did she discuss it with Brandis as Shadow Attorney Gerneral
    Why has Ms Bishop been the first to get out there?
    Could it be that she is aware of the size & depth of the conspiracy and is trying to get clear from under?
    There is much to explain is this tawdry and dispicable saga that stains the Liberal Party

  • 82
    Hi Lights
    Posted Saturday, 15 December 2012 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    I think it is high time the media explored Christopher Pyne’s role in Ashbygate…Christopher, where are you? I can’t seem to find you nor can I hear you… how strange!

    No seriously, my money is on the wine bottle James Ashby collected from Christopher Pyne’s office. Pyne as Manager of Opposition Business in the Aust House of Reps knows everything or at least he purports to…. So my question to him is why was James Ashby collecting a bottle of wine signed by Tony Abbott in your office? Any staffer in Aust Parliament can tell you normal procedure is to collect signed bottle of wine by Abbott from Abbott’s office NOT Pyne’s. So what have Ashby, Pyne and/or Pyne’s staff been wanting to discuss before the Easter Parliamentary Break?

    Christopher, where are you? I still can’t see or hear you.

  • 83
    Prue Acton
    Posted Saturday, 15 December 2012 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    An excellent Speaker brought down by an opportunist.