Crikey



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

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.

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  1. i predict this will have no bearing at all on the coalition’s favourability because OH MY GOSH LOOK BOAT PEOPLE WUT!?!

    by qwerty bluett on Dec 12, 2012 at 1:11 pm

  2. Wow. That’s a pretty comprehensive smack down.

    by Matthew of Canberra on Dec 12, 2012 at 1:39 pm

  3. Well who’d have thought??
    When folks look back on this era of politics… The hung parliament… they will note with horror the political assassination of enemies of The Liberal National party through the repeated mantras of guilt guilt guilt before trial. They will see that Julia Gillard was tried by Abbott & Bishop over 17 year old irrelevancies that were repeated daily, daily daily and that
    successfully undermined her reputation.
    These tactics have ben used repeatedly in an uninhibited attack to destabilise the tight numbered government. This is nothing new to us readers here…. BUT ….. Historically it will be far more obvious than it is now inside this dirty bubble where visibility is low…..
    This is very serious stuff & the attempted overthrow of governments by gutter sniping is trash ugly and will tarnish this eras politics far beyond the next election.

    by GLJ on Dec 12, 2012 at 1:41 pm

  4. There maybe no winners but I think the LNP will be the losers - a lot of questions for Brandis, Abbott & Co - they were happy to sling the mud bucket but are tehy prepared for the blow back.

    And if Geewizz is out there can I just remind him of a comment he made the other week when discussing Gillard & the AWU - I can’t remember the exact quote but it was something like “I remember Jimmy making similar comments about the Sliiper affiar and we all know how that ended” - So yes Mr Wizz we do know hoe that ended - me right, you wrong, the libs with plenty of explaining and a whole lot of muck raked.

    by Jimmy on Dec 12, 2012 at 1:45 pm

  5. So will our media sheet the blame home where it belongs all will they role over and continue to push the prprietors line?

    Pauline Hanson gets falsely accused
    Rudd gets falsely accused
    Slipper gets falsely accused ( although he is far from untanished in other matters but remember who attende his wedding and gave him unqualified support)

    and who is there all the time. Tony Abbott

    He throws all the mud so all politicians are tainted in the public’s eye so that he does not look as bad.

    Mud throwing will continue whislt the perpatrators are not held to account. The victoms have little recourse as things are now other than to resort in kind which then perpetuates the cycle

    by The Pav on Dec 12, 2012 at 1:59 pm

  6. There are certainly no winners on both sides of politics in this saga. First the government’s dogged defense of Slipper and the hasty payout of $50K to make it all go away, coupled with inappropriate public remarks about the veracity of the case before it was heard in Court. It is not unreasonable to ask why Ashby, unlike many other complainants, was paid off so quickly if there was no case to answer and despite the government’s constant assertions the case was vexatious. Compare this to the experiences of other complainants who by contrast wait a long time for justice, if justice is served at all.

    It is probably too soon to state, without evidence, that Ashby was a ‘trojan horse’, probably more an opportunity that came the Coalition’s way and given Slipper’s past history one that probably had an air of legitimacy about it. Whether the case would have gone to Court without the shenanigans of minority government is anyone’s guess.

    Unless of course Ashby is telling the truth. There is nothing inherently wrong with a victim of harrassment going to others for counsel and advice within their own party confines. This is not unusual. Why would Ashby necessarily approach Slipper or go to the SMOS? This may be the desired process but it is not one that always works for the bullied but often more in favour of the alleged perpetrator. Given the APS propensity to sweep bullying under the carpet or to target complainants who would seek redress from internal avenues.

    One thing is for sure the public and the taxpayer will probably be the last to know the real truth behind these events, maybe the best we can hope is truth via the next tell-all book to arise out of the gelatinous mass that is Aussie politics.

    by bluepoppy on Dec 12, 2012 at 2:16 pm

  7. Well I never! Who’d a thought?

    by iggy648 on Dec 12, 2012 at 2:23 pm

  8. The honey-trap that turned into a tar-baby?”

    by klewso on Dec 12, 2012 at 2:24 pm

  9. Does this decision make Mr Ashby the LNP’s 2012 Godwin Grech? To the ALP, “Cry havoc, unleash the dogs of war!”

    by MJPC on Dec 12, 2012 at 2:25 pm

  10. Bullocks. The whole affair.

    And quite a rushed last paragraph there, Margot.

    by JamesK on Dec 12, 2012 at 2:32 pm

  11. I’m a bit aghast that even crikey is perpetuating the myth that Peter Slipper is permanently damaged when he did nothing unlawful and his texts- which should have remained private, would be no more outrageous than daily talk between LNP or Labor MPs.

    Nor should Peter Slipper’s decision to take the role of Speaker be held against him no matter how much MPs squeal. It was lawful and he did the job professionally. Despite it being a Labor Party tactic it was no more than any party would do if possible. They broke no law or convention despite the howls of Abbott, Pyne and Brandis.

    I am surprised that few in the MSM seem to be able to come to grips with what looks like a criminal conspiracy to unseat a lawfully elected government.

    It is a scandal and I expect the MSM to expose the truth.

    by Peter Shute on Dec 12, 2012 at 2:35 pm

  12. I for one, look forward to Mr Slipper’s re-instatement as Speaker. But then, Thwarted Tony is my favourite Abbott look.

    by Holden Back on Dec 12, 2012 at 2:36 pm

  13. What a damn shame this judgement didn’t come down for the last week of parliament.

    Those of who thought Ashby was going to ‘go the Grech’ ie be entirely discredited, can only regret it didn’t happen in time to make the tawdry Opposition accusations over the AWU incident look like what they were: yet another distraction from anything meaningful and an attempt to damage the PM.

    by CHRISTOPHER DUNNE on Dec 12, 2012 at 2:36 pm

  14. I’d say this is a resounding win for Slipper.

    The only reason he doesn’t “look good” is because the smears were able to circulate before the Court could make its judgment.

    What is the purpose of including a smeary and vague reference of your own to Slipper’s “idiosyncratic personal issues”?

    by Ruprecht on Dec 12, 2012 at 2:44 pm

  15. You really should check out the facts before slandering anyone Ms Simons, nothing Slipper said or did in a private text in October last year was offensive, perhaps you ought to read the damn texts before you write such drivel.

    Slipper was not criticising anyone, he does not hate women, only a stupid person would have been offended by nothing much and worse things are said on TV every day of the week without people being sued.

    I hope the costs to Ashby are considerable.

    I wrote on the first day of this sex scandal without sex that there would be egg on many faces at the end of the day because with Lewis doing it the story would be found to be crap.

    And I have no feeling about Slipper one way or the other but the rule of law must be paramount.

    by shepherdmarilyn on Dec 12, 2012 at 2:48 pm

  16. And Slipper won you clown.

    by shepherdmarilyn on Dec 12, 2012 at 2:49 pm

  17. 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.

    As I recall there were some less than complimentary remarks about the aesthetics of female genitalia. While I can see that the comments might be regarded as tasteless, I hardly see how they amount to a slander.

    by Jolyon Wagg on Dec 12, 2012 at 2:59 pm

  18. Well, well, well…. the suspicions of many of us that Slipper has been targeted by the LNP. Brough comes out of it badly and deserves to have his career in politics ended. Also, this is probably one of many LNP-inspired campaigns to discredit someone favourable to the Labor side of politics

    by Harry1951 on Dec 12, 2012 at 3:01 pm

  19. The case seriously stinks.

    The bizarre thing is that you could have made a case that Slipper had dealt inappropriately with the staffer (which might explain the Commonwealth’s settling of the suit) if the political self-interest hadn’t been so naked. Be interesting to see the effects of this, if they survive the Christmas interval…

    by Ravenred on Dec 12, 2012 at 3:02 pm

  20. I read the judgment. It’s a comprehensive analysis of the communications surrounding Ashby leading up to the issue of proceedings. The findings appear to be soundly based in evidence. Not at all easy to overturn on appeal.

    by Andybob on Dec 12, 2012 at 3:33 pm

  21. GLJ - Not only will the history books see Abbott & co for what they are but they will see a govt that enacted a carbon price, MRRT, NDIS, Gonski, changed the health funding model, kept the economy motoring through the GFC and wound back a lot of the Howard era middle class welfare and wonder why it was referred to the worst govt of all time.

    The Pav - You left JG of your falsely accused list.

    by Jimmy on Dec 12, 2012 at 3:39 pm

  22. I wonder how long it will take Albrechtson, Akerman & Devine to come out with a claim that Justice Rares was ‘got at’or influenced by Nicola Roxon, the PM and the evil left wing Military Industrial Complex?

    by malcolm.grant1 on Dec 12, 2012 at 3:54 pm

  23. Jimmy @ 21

    Fair point but in mitigation I plead that the PM has so effectively pound the Leader of the Opposition it seemed unnecessary

    by The Pav on Dec 12, 2012 at 4:04 pm

  24. malcolm.grant.1 - This is the headline of a dennis shanahan article online “Mal Brough the real victim of Peter Slipper judgment”

    by Jimmy on Dec 12, 2012 at 4:06 pm

  25. The comments and findings of Justice Rares, which are incisive and devastating were open on the evidence for him to make. No basis for an appeal, I can see, other than to drag this out, once again, for political purposes.

    What a bunch of ba$tards these Liberals and their media proprietors have turned to be.

    by Karen on Dec 12, 2012 at 4:10 pm

  26. First Utegate was a baseless conspiracy, now Slipper turns out to be a baseless conspiracy. Any bets on the Gillard/AWU affair? Note the prominent role of News Ltd in pushing all three.

    by Malcolm Street on Dec 12, 2012 at 4:26 pm

  27. Jimmy / Karen , My sad insight tells me that the majority will not read or take the Justice Rares summation on. They will cling to the repeated messages heard many times from the Righteous Brandis and the Outrraged Abbott and also the text image will linger. Abbott & co are working the room repeating the message and the judgement is a quiet comment in the room after a lot of shouting. The shouting will be in the memory long after the quiet comment is passed. Same as the AWU business. Say it loud and say it often. Then even denial looks like failure. It is sick and sorry and ethics free, soulless and damaging to our little democracy. I agree Karen, another round just for the News Ltd coverage could be on the cards. [ Oh how the Righteous shall Fall ]

    by GLJ on Dec 12, 2012 at 4:51 pm

  28. Love it “James Ashby was a small but perfectly formed Trojan Horse who was wheeled into Slipper’s office to blow it up” that is the best line I have seen in this drama. Glad this has blown up in the face of the LNP, though, considering some of the articles in the MSM at the moment, not holding my breathe that Brough etc., will get the chop :(

    by Noely Neate on Dec 12, 2012 at 4:57 pm

  29. Everyone seems to have a handle on this except Bluepoppy. Bluepoppy, the government did not make inappropriate remarks and paid of Mr Ashby because they figured that their case added nothing except great expense to the taxpayer to a case that would basically rest on Mr Slipper’s application to have the case thrown out of court. Nor does the rest of your long winded suggestion that Ashby did no wrong and the LNP did no wrong strengthen any hope that Ashby will be successful on appeal or in any was support your claim that “there are no winners” on either side of politics, when you clearly think that the LNP ought to have won.

    I read the first reports on Ashby and I scratched my head. From what was quoted (the crucial bits might have been left out) there was no repeated or threatening moves by Slipper against Ashby. Slipper said a few things that I think were excessively familiar and because of that could perhaps be construed as a sexual pass. But there is no suggestion in the published evidence of persistent or threatening pressure to have a sexual relationship. So what was Ashby making a fuss about? Knocking off Slipper as speaker seemed a likely aim of all Ashby’s counsellors (who, of course, did no wrong, according to Bluepoppy)

    Just as with Julia Gillard, I thought here was the US Republican Party playbook at work again. Rupert Murdoch must be very disappointed that his propaganda outlets in the US did not get Mitt Romney, with his program to dismantle the welfare state, over the line in the recent US presidential election but Rupert can have better hopes in Australia where his media have a much bigger voice. He might win here and put Abbott in as Prime minister to do whatever he can without control of the upper house to restore some of the worst aspects of work choices and dismantle welfare, which does not include, of course, responsible incentives to the wealthy to contribute to their health care and to their children’s privileged schooling. Abbott will try to introduce incentives, but of a more punitive kind, to force poorer people to contribute more to to their health care and to their children’s schooling. Watch this place.

    by Hunt Ian on Dec 12, 2012 at 5:18 pm

  30. I cannot begin to register my disgust at Ashby’s conduct. But it is to the absolute shame of Tony Abbott and Mal Brough that they went along on this disgusting campaign for the ride. God help us, if these “people” were ever to lead the country.

    by Karen on Dec 12, 2012 at 5:23 pm

  31. The PAv - True JG has given Abbott a couple of pretty good whacks but if this weeks polls are to be bel ieved the public is falling for his BS yet again - but I suppose that is to be expected given the media coverage.

    Malcolm Street - Given the AWU affair has been shown numerous times to be a red herring I wold say it is a near certainty that it will be again - although given the libs want JG to prove her innocence rather than the other way around it night be more difficult.

    by Jimmy on Dec 12, 2012 at 5:25 pm

  32. An entire article and 26 comments, yet nothing from Geewizz or dear Suzanne B on their favourite dead horse? Are they OK? Can we get a neighbour to pop round to check on them?

    /s

    by fractious on Dec 12, 2012 at 5:32 pm

  33. Margot,
    It wasn’t that the PM couldn’t accede to Andrew Wilkie’s demands (and the terms of her agreement with him). It was that the legislation couldn’t get across the line. This was primarily due to the outrageous campaign by Clubs Australia (especially in NSW, so you would certainly have been aware of it). Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott were not on board, and several ALP Members were spooked by the campaign.

    by Peter Fuller on Dec 12, 2012 at 6:12 pm

  34. @Andybob

    As you seem to have given the case considerable attention can you tell us if the judge, before saying highly derogatory things about Brough actually heard Brough himself or by his counsel on the matters alleged? If he did not it sounds as though he is a real high-handed Marcus Einfeld type (before Einfeld’s humiliating fall) whose arrogance should has led to a scandalous abuse of judicial power and position.

    by Warren Joffe on Dec 12, 2012 at 6:54 pm

  35. Just a little I/We-told-you-so. I seem to recall that the moment this story broke a number of commentators (including *ahem* your humble correspondent) stated immediately it looked like a put up job.
    I also seemed to recall an article by Bernard Keane claiming it was, in fact, indicative of general bad work environment for parliamentary staff. An implicit endorsement of the likely substantial nature of Ashby’s claim.

    Now if we can only persuade Crikey that media organisations like Fairfax using forged credit card vouchers is not OK….

    by Julian Fitzgibbon on Dec 12, 2012 at 7:00 pm

  36. Sensible Comments bluepoppy.

    What a vapid viper pit!

    by Serenatopia on Dec 12, 2012 at 7:15 pm

  37. I’m not surprised this case was thrown out - it always looked like Slipper had been set up. But no matter, the damage is done and what’s the problem in destroying one man, or many, if you get to win an election.

    by Lee Miller on Dec 12, 2012 at 7:16 pm

  38. It was obvious that this was a put up job. It was unlike the DJ’s this prank was designed to bring political ruin to one individual for the benefit of the LNP. It was clumsy and the expected capitulation sponsored by News Ltd found that the Government was not fazed neither was Slipper even though he faced total ruin. Good on him I say and I would say that the lawyers will be rubbing their hands in glee as the defamation writs are prepared. The First Question Time in the next session of Parliament will be worth watching as the Liberals have to defend their sleaze agenda yet again.

    You dice with the devil and you take the consequences. It could be fatal for Pyne and Brandis. On the promised early election score, Gillard 2 Abbott 0. And with the Thompson case seeking CCTV that investigation’s must be getting no where other than worrying a few brothel patrons other than Thompson.

    by tonyfunnywalker on Dec 12, 2012 at 7:30 pm

  39. Ah, how I love the crikey commentariat!

    by puddleduck on Dec 12, 2012 at 7:36 pm

  40. Should there be a new award, the Goblin Wretch in a fetching shade of diarrhoeic greenish brown, for confected, disingenuous, mendacious, partisan and politically partisan B/S?

    by AR on Dec 12, 2012 at 7:46 pm

  41. Where’s troofie and SB when you need them!

    SUZANNE BLAKE
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 5:37 pm | Permalink
    @ David Hand

    The knives will not wait until December, will be this Winter.

    30 days according to Richo, who seems on the mark quite often.

    BABAAHAAHAHAHHABABAHHAHAHAHHAHAHAA

    by Gerry Hatrick, OAP on Dec 12, 2012 at 8:59 pm

  42. i can’t help but think that if this was the other way around, the coalition defending themselves against a labor plant, the headlines wouldn’t be “there are no winners” but “comprehensive victory for abbot as worst government ever fails again”.

    by qwerty bluett on Dec 12, 2012 at 9:19 pm

  43. What Bluepoppy is not acknowledging is :
    Going to Mal Brough was actually going to Slippers adversary not some independent person for advice. It was also going to a person that could do favours for Ashby.
    Leaking Slippers diary to M.B. & others is not just an ordinary activity & is indicative of motive and subterfuge with hidden agenda.
    Going directly to NEWS LTD. with a preordained story of Ashby good guy / Slipper bad guy & having it extensively reported as fact adds to the destructive agenda.
    Bluepoppy you sound measured but you have ignored bits that don’t fit your measured argument!

    by GLJ on Dec 12, 2012 at 9:39 pm

  44. @ tonyfunnywalker: Let the defamation writs begin, just watch you will see them all duck for cover, MSM included. Some people say Mr Ashby is already paying a $$$ price for court costs. At the end of the day what ultimately will hurt the most is $$$ that may need to be paid by many that were involved. Ha, ha, ha couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of low lifes.

    by Bill Hilliger on Dec 12, 2012 at 9:47 pm

  45. Will we see apologies now from Coalition and media alike?

    No…of course not.

    by El Nino on Dec 12, 2012 at 10:04 pm

  46. This outcome was entirely predictable. We got to find out about the ugly side of Peter Slipper though, which I, for one, could have done without.

    by Zeehan on Dec 12, 2012 at 11:21 pm

  47. Brough lost Longman in 2007 because he was a hopeless MP. The 10% swing against him was double the swing in neighboring seats and the National swing. It is now clear he is a fool as well as hopeless. “whatever it takes” indeed. The idea of using a Trojan horse to blow your political opponent out of Parliament is extreme in our national history. Being caught up to your armpits in sh** should spell the end of his political career. If Mal Brough is still the best person the LNP can find to run in Fisher, the party is in dire straits.

    by beachcomber on Dec 12, 2012 at 11:24 pm

  48. Sexual, suggestive banter between two consenting adults suddenly turns to “sexual harassment”? I’m surprised there weren’t cameras too.

    Slipper can’t resume the Speaker’s seat - he’s damaged goods.
    Roxon looks compromised - with some mud on her hands, having decided to concede that pay-out.
    And fancy sending out Emerson, “The Karaoke Kid”, to plead the government’s case on 7:30?
    But compare that to “the good ship Ashby” and the Liberal rats set to desert him now.

    by klewso on Dec 13, 2012 at 12:52 am

  49. Not being one who likes to say, ‘I told you so’ but I did! I said right from the beginning that at best this was VERY fishy indeed! And how convenient I also said! After ex number of months/days etc, James whatsisname made a complaint, and guess what, Mal Brough and Christoper Pyne were involved, and further, Brandis gave his experienced legal opinion which condemned Slipper?

    And not one person from the Federal Opposition has fronted the media? Oh No! Really! Can’t be true? Honestly?

    They’re silent because they’re as guilty as hell! I just hope Labor counters any of the Libs gutter ads with some you beauties of their own!

    Christopher Pyne, that dear little benevolent gullible catholic school boy, has been caught with his sticky fingers in the cookie jar, and joins his mentor Mal Brough!

    This stank right from the beginning! The Judge/Magistrate agreed with me! I feel vindicated too!

    I won’t be holding my breath waiting for msm to ‘go for the jugular’? Imagine if this was Labor ‘business’? My god! Enough said!

    Anyone heard from Abbott? Pyne? Brandis? Really! Oh well, Brough perhaps? No? Oh dear! Says it all doesn’t it?

    by Liz45 on Dec 13, 2012 at 2:08 am

  50. No the pathetic media are still claiming that bad language alone disqualified Slipper from being speaker, never mind that there is no law against bad language and he wasn’t speaker at the time.

    Talk about a whiney pack of worthless snakes.

    by shepherdmarilyn on Dec 13, 2012 at 6:30 am

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