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Monday, April 23, 2012

Peter Slipper, James Ashby and the Pope

I wonder if James Ashby knew before he decided to sue “the government” as well as Peter Slipper, just how many members of today’s Opposition would be dragged into the mire of the Parliamentary Speaker’s transgressions. 

Ashby has named Tony Nutt who was chief of staff to John Howard and it’s alleged that back in 2003, it was his job to “hush up” sexual harassment allegations against Peter Slipper. John Howard and his ministers had the opportunity to act on and pursue the allegations, but they decided not to - people like Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey and Bronwyn Bishop.

So who is James Ashby? He’s no shrinking violet that’s for sure. Ten years ago when he was a DJ in Newcastle, he pleaded guilty to making abusive phone calls to a drivetime host from a rival station. He was fined $2000 and given a three year good behaviour bond. 

When told his telephone conversation was being taped court documents reveal that he said "Yeah, go for it you f ***ing psychopath. Next time I see you riding on your f ****** bike I'll hit you, you idiot, all over the sloppy road, you dumb F***wit, if I was your mother, I would have drowned you at birth." 

Mr Ashby is being represented by Harmers Workplace Lawyers, the same people who represented Kirsty Fraser-Kirk in a settled harassment suit against former David Jones boss Mark McInnes.  I'm not sure if this is a good thing - from memory Ms Fraser-Kirk settled for a fraction of what she asked for - she wanted $37 million and got $850,000. 

However Ashby's lawyers have had his phone forensically examined to ensure that his account of salacious text messages can be used in evidence.  According to legal documents lodged on Friday, Ashby has kept all text messages.

We now learn that Mr Slipper is an ordained priest of the Traditional Anglican Communion church (TAC) - a small breakaway group from the mainstream Anglican Church who were furious when Anglicans began to ordain women as priests.  His good friend and Archbishop John Hepworth said "As Peter's archbishop, I applaud his decision to stand aside as Speaker and am seeking a similar decision in relation to his public functions in the church."

For the past three years the TAC has been involved in negotiations to join the Catholic Church and Mr Slipper has enthusiastically backed the move.  He described Pope Benedict's offer to traditional Anglicans to join with the Holy See as "extremely generous" and "a wonderful opportunity" and described the Pope as "an amazingly visionary person." 

However, the Vatican has banned all Catholic clergy from holding political office so it looks like Father Slipper will have to make an important decision - unless unforeseen circumstances make it for him.