In the public eye Christopher Pyne is Australia’s most obnoxious politician. A title he probably wears with pride. The allegation by James Ashby last night on “60 Minutes” that he, Pyne, knew more than he was saying is consistent with Pyne’s general demeanor. Anyone who uses the “c” word to describe a fellow member of Parliament is deficient in morality in one form or another.
That aside, what the “60 Minutes” program last night did reveal was that this sick and sorry event still has much more to give.
If it were simply a question of a parliamentary employee feeling that he was aggrieved by being sexually exploited by Mr Slipper then it could have all been put to bed easily. All he had to do was lodge a complaint with his employer, just like any employee would.
It should also be pointed out that although Slipper’s alleged sexual advances may have been unsavory. As a gay man Ashby would have been familiar with the language and could have terminated it at any time.
For Mr Ashby to say that he didn’t know which way to turn so he went to Wyatt Roy twice for advice is to say the least irrational given that he would have known that avenues were open to him. Why didn’t Roy, Pyne and Brough advise him to use those channels?
Of course not. They saw an opportunity to bring down the Speaker and as a logical extension, the government.
As a blogger, not a journalist, I can allow myself the luxury of speculation. And it is not beyond supposition to assume that when Ashby approached Pyne, the then opposition Education shadow minister would have almost wet himself in anticipation of a political kill.
But of course there are facts in this case that need investigating. And an inquiry is needed to bring them out into the open which of course is unlikely given the discomfort it might cause the government and the Prime Minister.
If no inquiry eventuates then the Labor Party should undertake to hold a Royal Commission into the matter when they next obtain office.
Any logical person would have to conclude that Ashby didn’t act alone. That he required the assistance of others who could only have been Liberal MPs.
Last night Mr Ashby told the program he kept a diary and recorded visiting Mr Pyne’s office.
“Said a lawyer would be paid for as promised and I would have a job – state LNP politics or federal – if I chose to come back,”
If it was a simple sexual harassment case. Why did he need a lawyer supplied by presumably the Liberal Party?
“It gave me a lot more confidence knowing the complaint I was about to make wasn’t going to be held against me because I hadn’t done anything wrong,”
Then later he was told that the lawyer would not be paid for – and there was no future job. Which of course raises the question of who footed the bill and why. It is reported to have cost around $500,000.
Mr Ashby did not reveal the offer in the affidavit to the court where he specifically denied being paid or receiving any other form of offer. When asked on the program he gave a flimsy answer that didn’t seem credible. What might have been the outcome if Justice Rares had known, and indeed what might have been the result of the appeal?
And it raises the question that by not revealing all the evidence did Ashby perjure himself.
To quote Slipper’s lawyer Simon Berry:
“There appears to be a whole lot more evidence that wasn’t in his affidavit that as the program points out probably should have been in the affidavit,”
“I think it’s a travesty because Peter Slipper has not been given an opportunity to clear his name and for the real story to come out,”
Why did Brough ask Ashby to steal, or copy, Slippers diary? He would have been aware that it was illegal to do so.
“Because I believed Peter Slipper had committed a crime,” he said.
Hayes asked: “Was it the right thing to secretly get copies of his diary?”
“That’s for others to judge,” Mr Brough said.
If Ashby, prompted by Slipper, is alleged to have stolen the Speaker’s diary, why haven’t the AFP investigated?
Both Pyne and Brough have denied any knowledge of the events other than what they had read in the newspaper.
‘’I think what he was trying to do is pre-warn me that things are gonna get hot. And I remember the conversation didn’t last too long at all. We literally got up from his table, he walked me towards the door, he said to me, “You’re a braver man than I am,” as we exited and said, “If you discuss or tell anyone we’ve had this discussion, I’ll be forced to come out publicly and call you a pathological liar.”
Late on Sunday night Pyne issued a statement to say:
“I had no specific knowledge of the allegations made by Mr Ashby and the first I knew that he was suing Mr Slipper was when I read it in the newspapers”.
This of course doesn’t explain all of those emails between Ashby and Pyne. And why are both Abbott, Pyne and Brough using the term “no specific knowledge” which of course is like saying; I know something but I cannot tell you exactly. Or it’s a lie about another lie. And to make matters worse the PM, following the interview, is refusing to say even that he had a general knowledge of the situation.
Quoting Lenore Taylor in The Guardian.
”Remember that the case was first thrown out of court as a “scandalous” abuse of process. Justice Steven Rares found Mal Brough, who at the time was the LNP’s candidate for Slipper’s Queensland seat of Fisher, had acted “in combination” with Ashby and a second Slipper staffer “to cause Mr Slipper as much political and public damage as they could inflict upon him” in a bid to advance Brough’s political interests and those of the LNP.”
So we are left with many unanswered questions. If Royal Commissions are fine for the Pink Batt Scheme and Unions, then surely one is certainly warranted for an attempt to bring down an elected government.
What is being harmed here is not the grubby reputations of some politicians unfit to serve our parliament, nor the parliament itself, but the democratic process on which our nation has thrived.
To quote the shadow attorney general, Mark Dreyfus:
“I think it’s always worth pursuing this kind of grubby conduct by members of the federal parliament. It’s worth pursuing because we need to know just what they did. It’s an extraordinary event that occurred here, this attack on the Speaker of the House of Representatives and it’s clear that a number of Liberal MPs were involved – in particular Mal Brough, Christopher Pyne, Wyatt Roy and Tony Abbott, to some extent,”
And there is one other question. What was Ashby paid for the interview?