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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Peter Slipper's emotional plea to the judge

When the Opposition was just about to dis-endorse him, Julia Gillard made Peter Slipper an offer he couldn't refuse.  She enticed him to become a conservative turncoat with the lure of the Speaker's chair and all the prestige that went with it. It was too much, he couldn't resist.

He immediately changed the rules and insisted on bringing back the ancient ceremonial procession with the Sergeant-at-Arms ahead of him carrying the mace into and out of the House and wearing the traditional black gown.  But unfortunately, the respect he craved wasn't forthcoming and instead, he appeared pompous and ridiculous.

So it was no surprise when Mr Slipper, a former Barrister, parted company with his lawyers and decided to represent himself.  James Ashby accuses him of "using his position to pursue relationships of a sexual nature with young male employees", sending lewd text messages to a male staff member and urinating out a window.

When John Howard was Prime Minister, Ashby claims that Slipper had a sexual relationship with another younger male member of his staff and that the Commonwealth "failed to take reasonable and effective steps to prevent him from utilizing his office to foster sexual relationships with young male staff members."  When Ashby made it clear to Slipper that he wasn't interested, he alleges that he made his life a misery and started victimizing him.

Slipper told the court he believed that Ashby "was placed" in his office or "contrived a situation where he was able to come to my office" as part of an elaborate plot by the LNP to ruin his career and his marriage as pay back for accepting the job of Speaker.  But Justice Rares didn't agree and said these allegations were not supported by the evidence before him.

So why did Slipper ask staffers James Ashby and Karen Doane "Can I kiss you both?"  He said he considered Ashby a "friend" because he had given him strawberries as a gift and he "may well have" asked if he could kiss them both, it was just part of the convivial atmosphere in their office.

James Ashby

In a teary plea to the judge that lasted several minutes, he was visibly distraught as he recounted how Ashby had "ingratiated himself" into his life which made his betrayed very painful.  Both he and his wife Inge had made him welcome in their home many times and James was happy to accompany them to gala balls and other social events.

"I'm beside myself, I love the position of Speaker of Parliament" he said. "I'm sorry if I'm getting upset and worked up, I apologise if I'm expressing emotion that one should not express in court, sir, I really, I apologise your honour, I feel very strongly about this matter."

Mr Ashby's lawyer, Michael Lee SC, said the suggestion that his client was "a Manchurian Candidate" sent in by political "conspirators" to ruin Mr Slipper's career was baseless.  He added that if Mr Ashby was successful, he would be seeking damages because he would never be able to work in the advisory industry again.

Justice Rares wanted to know how Mr Ashby's allegation that he had witnessed his boss handing over taxi vouchers amounted to anything improper or illegal as there could be a "perfectly innocent explanation." He also thought it was "very, very troubling" that Mr Ashby put forward these allegations in his Federal Court sexual harassment case, but later withdrew them.

The hearing continues.