On the Hill: Private corruption in a very public office

Yesterday (July 30th) Mal Brough, former Howard government minister (and adviser to James Ashby) won preselection for the seat of Fisher.

Boring. Boring. BORING.

I know you don’t care who represents Fisher, you probably don’t really care about ‘politics’ either. And why should you, when last week I wrote all about why your elected representatives hate you…

But politics can be kind of sexy, at least on the Sunshine Coast…

And when politicians treat the offices they hold with contempt, it’s important that those who are going to be forced to choose between them come election time know the manner in which these public representatives conduct themselves in private.

This week, after years of competition between Peter Slipper and Mal Brough for representation of the seat of Fisher, Brough has been pre-selected by the Coalition to represent them at the next election.

Peter Slipper, who has held the seat since 1993, stood down as Speaker of the House after sexual misconduct allegations (currently still being investigated) were made by his former staffer James Ashby.

Slipper withdrew himself as a member of the LNP before assuming the a-partisan role of Speaker of the House, and the LNP has obviously not forgotten.

In a fashion markedly more resemblant of an episode of Dawnson’s Creek than what we ought to expect from our elected representatives, 33 year old former staffer James Ashby sought counsel from numerous Coalition MPs in the weeks preceding Slipper’s downfall.

Ashby allegedly colluded with Christopher Pyne, Shadow Minister for Education, Appreticeships, and Training, and Mal Brough.

Is it a coincidence that Mal Brough, the same MP who has spent years trying to replace Slipper as the representative for Fisher, provided counsel to another man who too wants Slipper out of the Speaker’s chair? Or did they just meet on the bus home…

If Ashby had been the victim of sexual misconduct, it shouldn’t matter who it was who helped him to come forward. Unless of course if it came about that that encouragement was not from one friend to another, but perhaps was a down-low character assassination carried out by the Party’s senior rankers.

Brough and Pyne tread a fine line between slander-feeding and Ashby’s counsellors. Does Ashby usually call Brough and Pyne when he has things he wants to get off his chest?

However, it was Brough and Pyne who sought out Ashby and not the other way around (evident from emails sent from Pyne to Ashby asking for his private email address).

Not convinced? News Limited journalist Steve Lewis texted Mr Ashby, ‘We will get him!’, the phones being seized by federal police in the wake of criminal investigations into Slipper’s conduct.

In a ‘points of claim’ document filed by Slipper’s legal team, Slipper alleges that on April 10 Ashby falsified illness in order to travel to Sydney to meet with Steve Lewis. The document also claims that Ashby gave extracts of Slipper’s personal diary to Lewis at this rendezvous.

As there has still been no evidence presented to support the claims, the media has to work with what it’s got: Ashby’s detailing of the times he spent at Slipper’s house, which involved showering with the door open, bare-shirted massages, and sleepovers.

While the mainstream media pussy-foots around political perennials, the important questions are being neglected: did Ashby consensually travel to Slipper’s abode numerous times under the misunderstanding that they were going to spend their evenings eating Doritos and playing Mario Kart? More importantly, did Ashby’s Coalition courting influence his decision to blow the whistle?

Is Ashby making these claims in an attempt to right Slipper’s alleged wrongs, or is there something much more partisan, much more petty, and much more malicious going on?

Day by day more information is revealed to us detailing when and what exactly these meetings entailed. It would be offensive and outlandish of me to suggest that if the Coalition had nothing to gain from Slipper’s besmirching, he’d still be Speaker of the House…