News Ltd journalist Steve Lewis famously texted James Ashby: “We will get him” — and last night they did.
With former Speaker Peter Slipper resigning from that position, the chain of events put in place by James Ashby and a number of political and legal figures – known and unknown – have resulted in the Party finally exacting its revenge on the man they feel bitterly betrayed them. A man who had been endorsed and stood for them – or one of their previous incarnations – in the seat of Fisher (including his first stint as a member from 1984-1987) for 22 years.
His crime was not, in fact, that he was a misogynist, or had sent lewd text messages, or had rorted the public purse, or had inappropriately propositioned a staffer, or even that he was a homosexual — although all these unproven allegations were certainly put forward by his enemies to smear his reputation, something now seemingly beyond repair. No, Peter Slipper's crime was that, in November 2011, he resigned from the LNP to become an Independent Speaker and deliver an extra vote to the Government, thereby making Tony Abbott's job of destroying the minority Government that little bit harder.
Ironically, Peter Slipper turned out to be, in the short time he held the chair, one of Australia’s best ever Speakers.
But the viciousness of the attacks on Slipper from the LNP and its media allies, News Ltd – most especially from Slipper’s own local newspaper, The Sunshine Coast Daily – were unrelenting. The fact that most of the smears have, after doing their dirty work, later been disproven, or shown to be speculative, or one-sided, or defamatory, has now become rather academic. They did their job. Eventually, one of them found its mark and persuaded Slipper to fall on his sword, which he did last night in a most dignified fashion.
The truth is, Peter Slipper has never and is not facing criminal charges for anything. There is no serious suggestion, apart from a quickly withdrawn allegation in James Ashby’s original affidavit about alleged cabcharge fraud, that Slipper has ever committed any criminal act whatsoever. What exists is a lot of innuendo – so much, indeed, that most Australians appear convinced of Slipper’s infamy. Nevertheless, not a shred of real evidence has ever been produced.
The main “crime” that Slipper has been forced to resign over appears to have been that he graphically and offensively described the female genitals in a private text message – something, I am afraid, that is done constantly by Australian males nationwide. The other is that, while deputy Speaker (he was not yet Speaker, as some in the mainstream media have been reporting) he called a female MP a “botch” — whatever that is.
Is this the new benchmark? Will all Australian MPs in now be forced to hand over the mobile phones to check for inappropriate text messages? How many MP’s will remain in high office after this new standard is introduced? Few, I expect.
Bear in mind that the same female MP referred to as a “botch”, Sophie Mirabella – who had the audacity to wax lyrical over Peter Slipper’s apparently heinous misogyny all over the Australian airwaves yesterday – is the very same MP who stood so proudly under a picture of “Ditch the Witch” and “Ditch the Bitch” signs with Tony Abbott at an anti-carbon tax rally:
This is the same MP whose commitment to women’s rights is so steadfast, that she sneered across the dispatch box at the childless Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard in 2008 saying "You won't need his (ex-PM Kevin Rudd’s) taxpayer-funded nanny, will you?" She is the same MP whose commitment to equality was such that she boycotted Kevin Rudd’s sorry speech to the Stolen Generation, alleging the children had been removed “for their own good”. The same MP, indeed, who has a range of accusations swirling around about her very own private life and propriety.
Bear in mind, as well, that the alleged ultimate architect of Peter Slipper’s downfall was his “friend” for 20 years, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott. A “friend” who left Slipper and his bride waiting 10 minutes at their own wedding because he was late. A friend who is himself quite clearly a misogynist. A misogynist, notwithstanding the entreaties of his wife, as was so clearly demonstrated by his use of the same distasteful words “die of shame” used by his discredited hero, Alan Jones, yesterday in a motion attacking Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Of course, Julia Gillard then excoriated Abbott over this matter yesterday in one of the best speeches ever given in this nation’s history.
The nature of Abbott’s misogyny, as well as his bigotry and bullying nature, has been clearly proven beyond a shadow of doubt in the IA pages.
Moreover, bear in mind also that were it not for a mysteriously well-funded legal and media assault by former Peter Slipper staffer James Ashby – operating through the Liberal Party’s favourite lawyers – these text messages would never have come to light. The allegations made are actually based not on sexism, but on a notoriously flimsy looking case of sexual harassment, which is currently in front of the court. For senior Liberals to cry crocodile tears over an issue of misogyny and impropriety is downright laughable, especially given reports that a senior Liberal allegedly engaged in a shockingly graphic conversation with James Ashby in Peter Slipper’s own electorate office, which was overheard by another of Peter Slipper’s staffers. Certain senior Liberals may need to be very careful when they begin throwing mud about supposed sexual impropriety — there are people around who know just where their skeletons lie.
Based on our investigations, which we will be discussing in these pages in coming weeks, I believe it very possible that James Ashby was a “honey trap” delivered into Peter Slipper’s office for the purpose of entrapment – possibly even to video Slipper in a compromising situation, as Ashby was a known video expert. Indeed, Slipper was alleged in Ashby's evidence to have been videotaped in 2003 engaged in compromising acts with another staffer, though this allegation appears to be based largely on hearsay — no-one appears to have actually seen this video and it has never surfaced. In any case, if Ashby was not installed in Slipper’s office for ulterior purposes, then it seems certain that he was contacted and opportunistically used for that purpose once he was employed.
Regrettably, for the LNP, despite their alleged best efforts, it appears Peter Slipper was not amenable to being entrapped. Indeed, there has never been a shred of real evidence that Peter Slipper is anything apart from a heterosexual in a loving relationship with his wife. But one who, like millions of other Australians, occasionally engages in off-colour banter with his confidantes. And apart from hearsay, such as about the 2003 video, no-one has come forward to suggest Slipper has ever engaged in any homosexual act. So, finding out, belatedly, that Slipper was not for turning, it looks like the LNP reverted to Plan B, which was to use any information Ashby had allegedly surreptitiously procured to smear Slipper beyond repair and make it impossible for him to continue in the role of Speaker. And this is precisely what has been done.
Here at IA, we have been investigating the Peter Slipper affair for some considerable time and we now have a great deal of information. We will be revealing more about James Ashby in coming weeks, including much about his past that is not publicly available, including his links to a range of interesting figures both in and out of the LNP. We will reveal the identities of a number of people named in the text messages whose identities are not obvious. And we will shed further light on the alleged role of senior Liberals in forcing Peter Slipper from the Speaker’s chair.
It should be noted, that although there is much speculation about Ashbygate, there is one thing we do know for sure — the political demise of Peter Slipper has been accompanied by a never before seen level of overt and arrant hypocrisy from his accusers.
[NOTE: In Ashbygate 1, we stated that Peter Slipper had forwarded the information about Ashby’s alleged sexual relationship with two 15 year-old boys to ABC 7.30. This appears to have been incorrect. Alhough Peter Slipper did apparently make the initial allegation to police about this incident, 7.30’s information appears to have come from a separate source. We apologise for this error.]