Ruling clears Brough in Ashby affair
FISHER MP Mal Brough says he feels vindicated after being absolved of any wrongdoing in the James Ashby-Peter Slipper affair.
Mr Slipper will have to face allegations of sexually harassing former staffer James Ashby, following the full bench of the Federal Court's 2-1 ruling to overturn the previous decision to dismiss the charges.
Federal Court judge Stephen Rares had previously thrown out the case after describing it as an abuse of political process.
Justice Rares was critical of Mr Brough's involvement in the saga and said that he was complicit in an underhanded political scheme aimed at unseating Mr Slipper, the then Fisher MP.
Throughout the past 14 months, Mr Brough maintained his innocence and said he had simply helped out a young person who had reached out to him.
The full bench of the Federal Court exonerated Mr Brough, ruling there was "no basis" for Justice Rares' conclusion that Mr Brough had played a part in instigating the proceedings for the purpose of damaging Mr Slipper's reputation.
The ruling stated: "Ashby was persuaded to contact Brough by (local LNP State branch chairwoman Valerie) Bradford. Despite Brough's hesitation at seeing Ashby, he did so and referred him to (David) Russell QC.
"There is absolutely nothing untoward about those matters."
Mr Brough faced the media yesterday with wife Sue by his side.
He said he had at times regretted meeting Mr Ashby, due to the damage it had wrought on his private and political life.
However, he said, his confidence in the Australian judicial system had never wavered and he would act the same if he had his time over.
"I think we've been vindicated every way - up, down and sideways," he said.
Mr Ashby has alleged that during his tenure on Mr Slipper's staff, the former Speaker sexually harassed him, sent him explicit text messages and made suggestive remarks.
Mr Slipper will defend the claims in the Federal Court.
Mr Brough said the incident had been used as a political football and he called on those who had attacked him to admit they were wrong.
He said he was also concerned that the vitriol levelled at Mr Ashby could discourage others from pursuing sexual-harassment claims.
"Hopefully, there's some finality, at least on my behalf," Mr Brough said.
"Yesterday the full bench of the Federal Court spoke loud and clear and in doing so totally exonerated all of my actions, made it very clear in no uncertain way that all of the actions that I undertook were appropriate, that I colluded with no one, that what I had done was fair and equitable.
"This is exactly what I have said from the start."