Monday, June 25, 2012

'We will get him!': journalist's alleged texts to Slipper accuser

-The Age
News Ltd journalist Steve Lewis. 
Photo: Ben Rushton
The News Limited journalist who worked with James Ashby and Malcolm Brough to expose allegations of sexual harassment against the Speaker, Peter Slipper, allegedly told Mr Ashby by text, "We will get him!" Steve Lewis also told Mr Ashby, "I will sort out payment" and "Just tell hotel to book u in again and News will sort". The text messages are contained in documents filed with the Federal Court and released to Fairfax today. In the "points of claim" document, Mr Slipper says on April 10, Mr Ashby falsified being ill in order to travel to Sydney to meet with Mr Lewis. He is accused of giving Mr Lewis extracts of Mr Slipper's private diary to assist the reporter write a story about the Speaker's alleged misuse of travel entitlements.
Mr Ashby, who worked as Mr Slipper's media advisor, had been in contact with Mr Lewis since April 2 - a fact he concealed from Mr Slipper.In a points of claim document filed by Mr Slipper's lawyers, Mr Slipper says Mr Ashby "gradually introduced into his exchanges with Slipper occasional ribald language and sexual innuendo". It relies on text messages Mr Ashby allegedly sent Mr Slipper, such as the following on December 27, 2011: "I'm going to smack u! Arhhhhhhh"; "Lenny use to call me the lovable C*** at Gowinta cause I knew how to play the game"; "You're cruising for a bruising" and "Cool. Let's f*** them up the a*** instead".


The Commonwealth claims Mr Ashby worked with another advisor, Karen Doane, Mr Lewis, and former Howard minister Mal Brough to "destroy or seriously damage Mr Slipper's reputation and standing and his political position and career". The documents also reveal that Mr Ashby met with Queensland Liberal National party minister Mark McArdle in early February and told him of the sexual harassment allegations. He met with Mr Brough in March and early April and appeared to be working on gaining a leg up, such as employment, with the Liberal National party in Queensland, the Commonwealth says.


Mr Ashby made public the serious allegations against his boss "in order to advance the political interests of the LNP and/or Brough and by those means to enhance or promote Ashby's and Doane's prospects of advancement or preferment with, or at the hands of, the LNP", the Slipper documents allege.The documents also claim  Mr Ashby "used the processes of the court as an instrument in a calculated and orchestrated political and public relations campaign".Text messages between Mr Ashby and Ms Doane refer to them preparing their resumes and sending them to Mr Brough.At the same time, Mr Ashby was telling Mr Slipper he was loyal to him and committed to promoting his political career.


The Federal Government has asked the Federal Court to throw out Mr Ashby's case on the grounds that it is an abuse of process. It says Mr Ashby "used the processes of the court as an instrument in a calculated and orchestrated political and public relations campaign".It says News Limited could only have got the originating application - which details the allegations - from Mr Ashby or one of his contacts - and that no journalist accessed the documents via the court before the story was published on April 21. It also says Mr Slipper received an email from Mr Ashby's lawyers at 3.54pm on April 20 notifying him that the originating application had been filed. At 7.18pm that night, Mr Lewis emailed Mr Slipper - who was in New York - telling him he was planning to run a story and asking him to get in contact."Slipper was overseas and without access to legal advice and was thus substantially inhibited in responding to the media reports", the document says.

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