Christopher Pyne, the federal Minister for Education, has tonight been dragged into the ‘Peter Slipper Affair’ following an explosive interview on Channel 9’s 60 minutes, which directly implicates him in the plot to bring down former Speaker of the House, Peter Slipper.
The affair centres around a sexual harassment claim brought against Slipper by his former staffer, James Ashby in 2012, a claim that ultimately forced Slipper to resign from the position, and shake the Gillard Government’s balance of power.
Ashby tonight told 60 Minutes that he had met with Christopher Pyne in his parliamentary office prior to lodging his sexual harassment complaint with the courts, and that Pyne promised him both a lawyer and a job.
Ashby says Pyne also suggested that Ashby might have to settle for a job in state politics, given the heat that a sexual harassment case against Slipper would generate.
Ashby told 60 minutes that as the meeting with Pyne ended, they walked to the door of Pyne’s office, where delivered a pointed warning.
“He said ‘You’re a braver man than I,’” Ashy told journalist Liz Hayes, before Pyne warned Ashby that he if ever disclosed the pair had met about the issue, Pyne would publicly describe him as a “pathological liar”.
Ashby told 60 minutes that the deal for a job and a lawyer was later reneged on.
Pyne declined to be interviewed for the 60 minutes story, but he has repeatedly denied any prior knowledge of the Ashby allegations, claiming that the first he knew about the issue was when the story broke in News Limited publications.
Mal Brough – the Liberal National Party MP who ultimately won Slipper’s seat, and who was lambasted for his abuse of the legal process by the court that initially reviewed Ashby’s case (in a case later overturned) – however, did agree to an interview with 60 minutes.
Brough repeatedly refused to divulge what details – if any – he provided to Coalition colleagues about the Slipper affair, prior to the case being lodged in the courts.
Brough also repeatedly claimed that the focus should be on the illegal behavior of Slipper, specifically his misuse of cabcharge vouchers to visit wineries in Canberra, an offence on which Slipper is to be sentenced later this month.
Wyatt Roy, the youngest member of parliament, was also dragged into the affair tonight, after Ashby revealed that he had twice met with Roy over the issue, and that it was Roy who set up the meeting with Pyne, and provided Ashby with advice and documents to lodge the complaint against Slipper.
The 60 Minutes program intimated that Prime Minister Tony Abbott may also know more about the issue than he’s ever let on publicly, although it stopped short of making that specific allegation. (an allegation Abbott has steadfastly denied).
60 Minutes did, however, broadcast old footage of Abbott at the National Press Club categorically denying that any member of the Coalition had prior knowledge of the Ashby allegations prior to them being lodged in court.
New Matilda is seeking comment from Mr Pyne's office.
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