Special Minister of State Mal Brough now finds himself in a mess of his own making.

Just when Labor’s question time campaign against him appeared to be running out of steam — and with the safety of the summer break just two days away — Brough blundered yesterday by opening a new front for himself: the media.

In effect, Brough suggested in Parliament he’d been the victim of selective editing by the Nine Network in relation to whether he encouraged James Ashby to obtain copies of former speaker Peter Slipper’s diary about his misuse of travel entitlements. Nine was quick to point out that the transcript of the relevant interview shows nothing of the sort. Brough had now picked a fight with a major media outlet, and was savaged last night by gallery doyen Laurie Oakes. Worse, it appears he has misled Parliament on the issue — the sort of offence for which ministers used to resign.

This morning, Brough tried to get out from under, issuing a statement in effect admitting to misleading Parliament, declaring he had “unwittingly added to the confusion rather than clarifying the matter” because “the question [in the interview] was put to me in a somewhat disjointed manner, and I answered the question without clarifying precisely what part of the question I was responding to.”

That’s barely dog-ate-my-homework level stuff.

Like Craig Thomson, who breathed new life into the ebbing scandal around his use of his union credit card when he decided to give a radio interview on the issue, Brough has ended up undermining his own position with an unnecessary media appearance.

In turn, Brough has put his Prime Minister in a difficult position. Turnbull’s judgment in elevating Brough is one thing; now he faces the dilemma of what to do with a minister who has turned a minor issue of revealing the misuse of entitlements by a politician into a much worse problem. Even with Parliament rising tomorrow, this is not over yet.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey