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Friday, December 14, 2012

Peter Slipper's sexual harassment case thrown out

Peter Slipper, with his wife Inge-Jane Hall

Some people were shocked when Federal judge Steve Rares threw out the sexual harassment case brought against ex Speaker Peter Slipper. Justice Rares said James Ashhby's case was "an abuse of process carried out for the purpose of causing public, reputational and political damage to Mr Slipper."  He dismissed the claim and ordered Ashby to pay Mr Slipper's legal costs.

Justice Steve Rares

Ashby has hundreds of text messages from Slipper about sexual matters, some of which were released to the media.  Their content is so offensive, particularly those referring to female genitalia, they leave no doubt that Peter Slipper should never have been considered for the high office of Speaker.  The Opposition moved a motion to remove him on an accusation of denigrating women, obscenely so, and Slipper made a public apology that "a number of these text messages refer to women and nothing excuses their content."

When interviewed for the position of staffer, Ashby claims he told Slipper he was gay and agreed to share his apartment.  Not long after he started the job, he alleges Slipper asked him to massage his neck and began moaning with pleasure and suggested they could become closer.  He also asked Ashby why he closed the door when he took a shower.  When he made it clear that his sexual advances were unwelcome, he claims Slipper started a campaign of revenge to punish him which became unbearable.

James Ashby

There's another reason why some people were shocked by Justice Rares' ruling.  In October the government settled Ashby's case by giving him $50,000 and promised to introduce training for MPs and senators regarding sexual harassment.  "By paying Mr Ashby $50,000 - a very substantial sum and for all practical purposes, conceding that he was right all along, what the Commonwealth has done in effect is concede the accuracy of his claims against Mr Slipper" Senator Brandis said in October. 

Justice Rares also found that Mal Brough - who recently won LNP pre-selection for the Queensland seat of Fisher - acted with Mr Ashby and Karen Doane in abusing the judicial process.  The government now has Justice Rares' finding to attack Brough who met with Ashby three times before he launched his case.  The PM insists he is not a fit candidate to run against Slipper in next year's election because he colluded with Ashby to bring Slipper down and hopefully, the government with him.  

Mal Brough

On the first sitting day of 2012, Slipper raised a few eyebrows by wearing a long black robe instead of a suit, preferred by his predecessor.  He also reinstated the more formal procession of the Speaker into the house, preceded by the sergeant-at-arms and mace.  

Julia Gillard offered Peter Slipper the Speaker's chair because she needed his vote in the House and he accepted the job because he knew his own party, the Liberal Nationals, would not pre-select him in next year's election. He would also enjoy a large increase in salary and status and his future seemed assured. Little did he know that the PM would ask him to stand down a few months later.

Tony Abbott said this morning that if the government think that Slipper is "a man worthy of public acclaim", they should return him to the speaker's chair.  But we know that isn't going to happen.

Tony Abbott in Afghanistan yesterday