According to an exclusive report released by the Sydney Morning Herald today, the former Australian Liberal cabinet minister, Mal Brough, admits urging James Ashby to seek legal help over the alleged sexual harassment he received from his then boss, Peter Slipper.
As reported by GSN, according to Mr Ashby, over the course of his employment Mr Slipper had asked sexually graphic questions, misused taxi vouchers and sent him inappropriate text messages.
Tony Abbott, the leader of the opposition, called for Mr Slipper to step down as Speaker over these allegations. After Mr Slipper did indeed step down, the Gillard government launched a campaign to link opposition MPs to the court action.
Now, Mr Brough, who is standing for pre-selection in Mr Slipper’s Queensland seat of Fisher at the next federal election, has told the Herald that he was briefly a confidant to Mr Ashby after he was approached by the 33-year-old staffer in March and April this year.
“I said to him that my strong view was that you need to make sure you are on extremely strong ground because the media, the government and Mr Slipper will tear you apart.”
“I said that you had better know that what you are saying is true and beyond and doubt.
“And if it is, my strong advice to you is to go to the AFP with your claims of criminality and you had better get yourself legal advice regarding the civil matter.”
Mr Brough denies ever speaking to any opposition MPs about the events brought to his attention by Mr Ashby. He claims that he only ever spoke to a selected few people who he could trust.
However, it is also known that Mr Brough waged a two-year campaign to oust Mr Slipper as candidate at the next election but maintains that he had very little interaction with Mr Ashby before the “distressed” young man approached him.
Mr Slipper has denied all allegations.