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The pressure is on

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Please read these two excellent articles:

  • The TV confession that haunts Mal Brough, Daily Telegraph
  • 'Atrocious judgment': Labor homes in on Malcolm Turnbull as Mal Brough apologises over 60 Minutes claim, Sydney Morning Herald


Mal Brough, under increasing pressure

The pressure is on Mal Brough, Malcolm Turnbull’s mistaken choice of Special Minister of State, and so it should be. Not only is Brough alleged to have breached the Crimes Act, by procuring official documents without authorisation, but he now appears to have misled Parliament.

Prime Minister Turnbull looked increasingly terse at Question Time, after his return from Paris. Brough flatly contradicted in Parliament, what he had earlier told Liz Hayes on 60 Minutes.

I have long been on the record as saying that what happened to former Speaker Peter Slipper was an injustice, and that a test of a fair and just society is the ethics of justice for all. In Parliament back in March, I forensically post-mortemed the political assassination of Slipper, which criticised people on both side of politics.


(L-R) James Ashby, Peter Slipper & Mal Brough

There are two main issues here. First, Brough has claimed that the Federal Court vindicated him in regards to his procuring Slipper’s official diary, and second, Brough has claimed that 60 Minutes took Brough out of context. Both claims are wrong.

As Malcolm Farr wrote in the Daily Telegraph,

Mr Brough could be stood aside amid Labor allegations he misled Parliament over his role in the reheated Peter Slipper expenses scandal. The biggest problem for Mr Turnbull and Mr Brough is that the minister appears to have dobbed himself in on a national television program.

Australian Federal Police are investigating allegations that in early 2012, Mr Brough — then out of Parliament but gunning for former Speaker Slipper’s Queensland seat of Fisher — asked Mr Slipper’s former staffer James Ashby to steal extracts from his boss’s confidential official diary.

The suggestion is the contents of the diary were cross-referenced to expenses claimed by Mr Slipper in a bid to uncover evidence of fraud.

In Parliament on Tuesday and on Sky News on Monday, I detailed the problems with Brough’s claim about the Federal Court. In short, in two separate rulings, the Federal Court referred to the allegations about Brough and the official diary, but on both occasions the Federal Court declined to pass judgment on it. This means that Brough has neither been “exonerated” nor found guilty of procuring Slipper’s diary. These claims have yet to be tested in court because James Ashby withdrew his claims of sexual harassment against Slipper.


Michael Danby is interviewed by David Speers on Sky News about Mal Brough

Of course, in the meantime, as the complainant, with his confederate, News Limited journalist Steven Lewis, he had caused 12 front pages of the Daily Telegraph to denigrate the Speaker, sometimes photo-shopping him as a rat with a tail and whiskers. This was after the Independents (Windsor and Oakshot), together with the Liberals, were unwilling to wait for a real court to decide. Instead, the then Abbott/Bishop Opposition star chambered then Speaker Peter Slipper and forced his resignation.


Slipper scored 12 front pages on The Daily Telegraph.. Lady Di only got nine!

For Brough to claim the Federal Court had vindicated him shows a misunderstanding of the judicial process, at best, or else a purposeful effort to mislead Parliament.

In regards to 60 Minutes, Brough claimed in Parliament yesterday that, “in relation to the 60 Minutes interview, what was put to air was not the full question.” The 60 Minutes executive producer quickly set the record straight, by producing the raw footage, which you can see here.

That raw footage revealed all sorts of gems, which exposes Brough’s claim of being taken out of context for what it is.

Other nuggets include his three-minute justification for procuring the diary because “he thought” Slipper was committing a crime. The justification was in the aired interview. But what wasn’t was journalist Liz Hayes immediately asking afterwards, ‘Why didn’t you go to the police?’ That question wasn’t originally aired, and nor was Brough’s answer, which entirely evaded the question!

Shadow Attorney General Mark Dreyfus’s forensic questioning of Mal Brough at Question Time, was echoed by Daily Telegraph journalist Malcom Farr, Sydney Morning Herald journalist Latika Bourke and veteran political correspondent Laurie Oakes.

In particular, Farr provides text from the affidavits tended to the Federal Court in 2013 that record a text message exchange between Mr Brough and Mr Ashby, in March, 2012.

“Can that be emailed James it is hard to read,” says a text sent by Mr Brough.

“Done, coming thru in minutes,” Mr Ashby replied.

There also are emails to Mr Brough in which a reporter asks for diary extracts for certain dates.

Misleading Parliament is considered a serious offence in the Westminster system. If Brough, as a minister, is found to have misled Parliament, he could be censured or even found to be in contempt of Parliament.


James Ashby, who was so repulsed by the Speaker that he launched a sexual harassment case against him was also upset he couldn’t accompany the Speaker on a first class trip to Hungary

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