Brough Takes To The Phones


Has federal Liberal-National Party candidate Mal Brough been personally ringing constituents to try and convince them he didn’t see the infamous menu at a Liberal fundraiser dinner held in Brisbane in March?

New Matilda can reveal that the controversial former Howard government minister has personally phoned and emailed an ordinary member of the public in order to try and put his side of the “menugate” scandal.

New Matilda has spoken to a member of the public, Amanda Boyd, who says she has received a personal email from Brough demanding an apology for a letter she wrote to him regarding the “menugate” affair. Brough also called her repeatedly in a sustained attempt to speak personally to Boyd that she says found “creepy” and “weird”.

After learning of the menu describing Prime Minister Julia Gillard in unfavourable terms last week, Boyd wrote an email to Brough’s electorate office in which she expressed her offense at Brough’s involvement in the dinner. “I want an apology, not for Prime Minister Gillard, for me, and every other woman in Australia,” Boyd wrote.

But when Brough emailed her back, it was he demanding an apology from her.

“Hi Amanda,
I have tried to ring you all afternoon with no success,”
“Since the full story came out many have apologised to me both publicly via the media and personally.”
“Will you admit to having jumped to conclusions and do the same?”

Boyd says Brough then rang her a number of times on her landline, which he’d looked up in the White Pages. 

Amanda you never sent me your mobile, I looked your number up your home number in the  whitepages.
I have just tried the number again.

“Why did he look up my phone number? That's just crossing the line,” Boyd told us in a phone interview. She says that having provided her postal address, she expected a letter in reply.

Indeed, while Boyd was reading the email from Brough, her phone rang again.

“It's totally weird and creepy, I don't live in his electorate, I don't even live in the state that he's standing in,” Boyd continued. “I'm not game to talk to him, but anyway, I think it just kind of feeds into that question of why is he trying to call me, is he trying to call every women who talked to him? She asked. “Is there something particularly offensive about [what I wrote]?” she said.

New Matilda contacted Brough’s office in an attempt to get his side of the story. This was what he had to say:

"At the end of the first correspondence I had from Amanda Boyd was [the request]'Please don't throw away my email, I would like a response from you, not your staff, I expect to hear from you soon'. I attempted to contact her, I looked her up on White Pages so I could ring her, I found her home number, there was no message bank, I finally emailed her to say I am contacting you to respond to your correspondence to me', as I have done to everyone else who has contacted my office.

"I took Amanda's request to hear from me soon seriously, as I have done with everyone else. It seems you're damned if you do, and damned if you don't.

"We have attempted to contact everyone that emailed us, texted or phoned us to discuss with them the misrepresentation of this issue, the misreporting of this issue,and  the facts behind the sacked worker who was not there who has made incredibly derogatory comments about Mr Abbott."

Mal Brough’s candidacy for the federal seat of Fisher has been dogged by controversy since late last year, when federal court Justice Steven Rares found that Brough had “acted in combination” with a disgruntled staffer of the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, James Ashby.

Brough is running for the LNP in the south-east Queensland seat of Fisher against Slipper, who has been disendorsed by the party. Ashby’s allegations of sexual harassment against Slipper were, Justice Rares found, brought to the court “for the predominant purpose of causing significant public, reputational and political damage to Mr Slipper”. The judge further wrote that Ashby’s allegations were made “in order to advance the interests of the LNP and Mr Brough.”

Mal Brough set out to achieve this by contacting News Limited journalist Steve Lewis. As Rares wrote in his judgment:

“Mr Ashby and Ms Doane by about 29 March 2012 were in a combination with Mr Brough to cause Mr Slipper as much political and public damage as they could inflict on him. They believed and hoped that Mr Lewis would publish unfavourable stories about Mr Slipper concerning whatever they could help Mr Lewis find in relation to Mr Slipper’s use of his travel entitlements in the areas of Mr Lewis’ curiosity.”

Earlier this month, Brough was again embroiled in controversy after the publication of a satirical menu at a fundraiser dinner for the Liberal Party held in March. The menu featured an item entitled “Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail” which compared the Prime Minister to a cooked quail, describing her as having “small breasts, huge thighs and a big red box”.

Restaurant owner Joe Richards, whose R&R bar hosted the function, has claimed responsibility for the menu, which he says was not distributed on the night of the event.

“I would like to confirm what actually happened: there were never any menus distributed on the tables or in the restaurant,” Richards wrote in an email distributed by the Liberal Party.

“I created a mock menu myself as a light-hearted joke, however as I said I never produced them for public distribution.”  Brough has claimed he didn’t see the menu. “Rather than going off half-cocked and making statements which I may well have been incorrect on, I said as it was; I had not seen it, I condemned it,” he told journalists last week.

“I'm being linked to something which wasn't there. It didn't occur.”

Now it appears Brough is trying to convince ordinary voters of that point with personal phone calls. It’s not clear whether the tactic will be successful.

“Maybe he's under a lot of stress,” Boyd said.

Ben Eltham is New Matilda's National Affairs Correspondent.