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Ashbygate in depth (Part III): At the end of Mal Brough’s dry gully

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Vince O'Grady wraps up his in-depth series on the lies and dissembling of Mal Brough over Ashbygate, directing more unanswered questions to the evasive candidate.

Mal Brough moves in 2 doors down from Peter Slipper, January 2013.
Mal Brough moved in 2 doors down from Peter Slipper, January 2013.


This piece will need to be read in conjunction with Part I and Part II. We recommend you open these in separate tabs so you can refer to these pieces more easily.

[Read Ashbygate in depth (Part I): Mal Brough’s dry gully]

[Read Ashbygate in depth (Part II): Further along Mal Brough’s dry gully]

One of the great disappointments of the press is the lack of detail in a story; the lack of a information to let the reader make up their own mind about an issue.

It appears to me that much of what you read in the newspapers and in their online editions isn’t hard news, it is opinion.

At Independent Australia we have a policy of telling the readers the facts. In Parts I and II of Mal Brough’s dry gully we have so far shown the number of times Brough has talked to the press and what actually happened in a timeline from the evidence.

The next part examines whether or not the man actually told the truth of what he knew. I don’t think he did, and running through a comparison of part I and Part II this analysis appear to be valid.

So let’s return to the opening remarks made by the Hon Tony Abbott at the Press Club on 31 January 2013.

Tony Abbott said about Brough:
“Look I will leave claims about what Mr Brough did or didn’t do to be answered  by, by, by, Mal, erm, he’s been very up front about this. He’s done lots of interviews about it and, erm, if you’ve got a question for him, I think he would be only too happy to take it from you.”

Well, this statement should be ‘framed’, because it's not true either.

As you will see, I emailed to the mal.brough2@bigpond.com email account which arose from this exercise from my Gmail account. It did not bounce back.

Realising that he might have closed that address down (although no message came back to say the email had not been delivered), we also sent the message to his campaign office at 9.18am on the 1 March 2013. The email was  fisher@lnpq.org.au. No rejection from that one either.

To date we have received no response from Malcolm Brough, the man about  whom Tony Abbott says:
“...erm, if you’ve got a question for him, I think he would be only too happy to take it from you.”

Well,erm, no Tony, in fact he wasn’t happy to take our questions.

Like many other journalists who've tried to put questions to Mal Brough about this murky affair, we have had no response at all.

Brough

Part 3: Media Interviews and the facts: the differences between Part I and Part II.


When the original allegations were made against Peter Slipper on 20th April in the Federal Court documents, Peter Slipper was overseas and the filing and newspaper stories coincided with his arrival back into Australia.

Comment One

Since 20 April, the evidence as to what actually happened has come out from three sources. The first is the first respondent, Peter Slipper, the second is the second respondent, The Commonwealth, and the third is James Ashby, the applicant. There have been a number of court appearance, which involved subpoenas or court orders to produce evidence served on Mal Brough, Steve Lewis, Karen Doane and Anthony McClellan.

These subpoenas were served on or about 18 June 2012, two months after the original application. They were returned by the parties (apart from Steve Lewis) on 27 Jun 2012.

The main body of evidence relating to them was filed on 20 July 2012 and placed on the website on 25 July 2012.The dates these were made publically available on the Federal Court website can be found here:

http://www.fedcourt.gov.au/case-management-services/access-to-files-and-transcripts/court-documents/ashby-v-commonwealth

My point is that the actual evidence has been very slow in being put before the public gaze.

Information about the case has been available on the federal court website and the dates filed an actually put onto the web site are shown.

Much of the evidence is in PDF format, where the PDF’s are made using images and are therefore not searchable by text.

Some is in text format.

In all cases, the evidence presented consists of a forensic download of James Ashby’s phone and the text messages it contains. The returned subpoena information, documents related to the employment of Commonwealth staff and the procedures which should be followed in case of misdemeanours.

A picture slowly emerged over about three months from the original application.



Comment Two

The first time Mal Brough was questioned by the Press was on 29 April 2012 (MEDIA ONE).

Asked whether he had any knowledge of the affidavit of Ashby, he dismissed any suggestions he knew of James Ashby’s affidavit before it was lodged as nonsense.

"Nonsense," Brough said, suggesting such questions were "up a dry gully" (See above.)

This was a blatant untruth, as can be shown by the sworn evidence on the Federal Court website.

On 29 March 2012, Brough rang David Russell QC to arrange legal advice with Ashby. This legal advice was given by David Russell on 6 April 2012 (Good Friday) at this home on the Sunshine Coast. He charged Ashby $1 and Doane $4. From this interview David Russell said that Ashby had told him he had chosen Harmers Workplace lawyers.

On 10 April 2012, when Ashby was meeting in Sydney with Steve Lewis from News Ltd, Brough asked Karen Doanehow Ashby had gone (see above in Part 2) and she replied, mentioning Lewis and Ashby in the reply. So he quite obviously aware that Ashby was in Sydney on that day meeting Harmer’s and, indeed, specifically asked Karen Doane for an update.

Comment Three

In MEDIA TWO on 4 May 2012, in Part One, above, Brough repeated the comment:
"I had no knowledge of the court proceedings. I have been absolutely consistent with that."

He may well have been consistent with that answer, but he asked Ashby for copies of diary notes to be emailed to him upon receiving them as phone messages, because he could not read them clearly.

He was also in touch with Steve Lewis by email accepting notes from him about dates from the diary. As the expense claims were discussed with James Ashby, Steve Lewis and later with Anthony McClellan, it appears utterly implausible to suggest he had no knowledge of the court proceedings.

SteveLewis
News Ltd's Steve Lewis.


Comment Four

MEDIA THREE in Part One, on 4 May 2012, was the first substantive interview Brough gave to Michael McKenna, the Queensland political correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald.

Brough leads through the series of meetings with James Ashby and sticks to the answers about what was discussed (sexual harassment and misuse of public funds) and says he advised Ashby to seek legal advice about both claims.

In that interview, Micheal McKenna says Val Bradford had said:
"He didn't want to talk to an MP."

That was nonsense, because Ashby had already talked about the sexual abuse claims to Mark McArdle, a sitting MP, on 2 February 2012.

Also, in the week before his first meeting with Brough (23 March 2012), Ashby had met with Christopher Pyne on 19 March 2012 in the Speaker's office for several hours for drinks and a loud conversation, some of which was overheard by other parliamentary staffers. He had also, according to Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop, been to see her office to complain of sexual harassment a month before the court documents were lodged, which would have been around 20 March 2012. Thus, the idea that Ashby saw Brough because he did not was to go and see an MP, as Val Bradford’s apparently asserted, is simply untrue.

From the same interview, Mal Brough said the following regarding the meeting with David Russell, Ashby, Doane and him on 6 April 2012.
He said a lawyer friend was at the next meeting with Mr Ashby early last month and began to go through the material with the adviser, who then revealed he had engaged his own lawyers in Brisbane and was meeting them on April 10.

"He rang me from Brisbane where he had some long conversations with lawyers, that was on the Tuesday after Easter (April 10), and that he was going to Sydney to have further discussions with lawyers," Mr Brough said.

Ashby was already in Sydney and the contents of the texts between him and Doane on 10 April 2012 make it clear that Ashby was already in Sydney and Brough knew this full well.

Brough lies again.

Comment Five

In MEDIA FOUR on 4 May 2012, Brough gives another face to face interview with Mike Edwards from the ABC AM news program.

This interview is just a repetition of the story he has told before. Ashby rang him, Ashby made two allegations, one of sexual harassment and one of improper use of government funds. He advised him to get a lawyer on both counts and go to the AFP on the misuse of funds.

Of course, this is another lie, since Brough's involvement with Ashby, as we have seen, was far, far, more extensive and involved than that.



Comment Six

In MEDIA FIVE on 6 May, Mal Brough tells the The Sunday Age:
''I wasn't prepared to lie, but I didn't want to canvass the issue .... I have nothing to hide and I have nothing to be ashamed of.''

Hardly an interview and hardly open. Part Two above shows that he was a member of a group of four people working hard to obtain damaging confidential information about Peter Slipper and have that information published.

Comment Seven

In MEDIA SIX, on 18 June 2012 with Michelle Grattan, after having been served with a subpoena to produce documentation about his communications with Ashby and Doane, he said the most extraordinary spin on the situation [IA emphasis]:
Mr Brough, who is seeking Liberal National Party preselection for Mr Slipper's seat, also said he had told his lawyers to make sure material relating to him was handed over to expedite the Federal Court case.

In the highlighted text, Brough purports to tell the listener or reader that he is selflessly helping the Court, above and beyond the call of duty, by expediting material through his lawyer.

What Brough doesn’t say is that he has absolutely no option but to deliver the required information, for if he does not produce the documents requested he will be in contempt of court.

Comment Eight

In MEDIA SEVEN on 30th July 2012 with Fran Kelly from ABC Radio National,

Brough doesn’t really say much. He just deflects the questions away from straight answers. He does admit to being uncomfortable about receiving the diary pages, but not uncomfortable enough to not ask Ashby to send them to him by email — which Ashby subsequently did.

He also talks about the Labor Government and how they should treat whistle blowers. Again, deflection away from his culpability and from answering the question.



Comment Nine

In MEDIA EIGHT on 30 July 2012, in the Sydney Morning Herald, with Phil Coorey quotes Brough speaking after he won his LNP Fisher pre-selection ballot:
 "I have always told the truth and the complete truth."

Looking at the timeline in Part Two, and our further discussion in Part 3, this clearly not the case.

Brough was compelled to disclose his dealing with Ashby and Doane by a court subpoena, however no one has shown the sequence of events which sow very clearly that he has not told the press everything.

It has not been widely reported that he had communication with Doane  about how Ashby went in Sydney on 10 April. At the very least that is what Doane assumed he was asking about. In her reply she says that he is going to be deposed “tomm. So, Brough did know about the sexual harassment case and the details.

He also communicates with Ashby via text on the 12 April.  What was his reason for doing so? Brough knows, but is not saying.

Similarly, on 19 April  – two days before the paperwork is lodged with the Federal Court –Brough sends Ashby an email stating there may be problems, and that he is aware Ashby is on the Coast and requests a private meeting to sort of the issues.

This communication is not the action of a man who only gave advice to a distressed person to get legal advice. He is not the rosella on the strawberry jam jar; he is the fruit inside the jar —right in amongst it.

In fact, Brough has told the press the same consistently thin story over and over, deflecting questions about how bad the government is and how badly a whistleblower has been treated. He’s smooth and he is compelling. Independent Australia, however, are not buying the facade.

Comment Ten

In MEDIA NINE on 12 December 2012 is a press Statement issued by Brough. It has three sentences.

Sentence one deflects the attention back to Slipper’s text messages. Which were vile, but no more vile than Ashby’s and absolutely nothing to do with the sexual harassment case or the cabcharge case.

Let us remind you that the case found the bringing of these charges in the Federal Court an abuse of process.

Sentence two also has nothing to do with the case. I am sure that the people of Fisher will read the facts in part two of this document with interest. They are facts gleaned from sworn evidence before the Federal Court. They are not supposition or opinion. They are facts.

In the third sentence Brough actually refuses to comment about the case because it is subject to appeal.

To put the facts right there, Ashby has sought leave to appeal his Honour Rares' decision, it is not automatic. Michael Harmer has also sought leave to appeal the decision.

Ashby’s application for leave to appeal:

 http://www.fedcourt.gov.au/case-management-services/access-to-files-and-transcripts/court-documents/ashby-v-commonwealth/ashby-commonwealth-of-australia/11-Jan-2013-Applcn-Leave-Appeal.pdf

Harmers application for leave to appeal:

http://www.fedcourt.gov.au/case-management-services/access-to-files-and-transcripts/court-documents/ashby-v-commonwealth/ashby-commonwealth-of-australia/14-Jan-2013-Applcn-Leave-Appeal-Harmer.pdf

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="316"] Michael Harmer[/caption]

Comment Eleven

MEDIA TEN was on  24 January 2013, and was a train ride by Brough to highlight the deficiencies of the Queensland rail route from the Sunshine Coast to Brisbane.

The reporter who interviewed Brough was  Kathy Sundstrom from the Sunshine Coast Daily newspaper.

After some acting before and during the journey, where Brough was apparently quite entertaining, they sat down on a seat at Brisbane and talked.

They discussed social media and how a comment on it could follow you around for a long time

Which led to Sundstrom writing the following:
Mr Brough insists the sum total of his involvement in the matter has already been fully canvassed and is on the public record.

"There is nothing more to add. There is no other meetings, connections or whatever else," he told ABC News.

"All of the discussion, the text messages - of which there is about half a dozen at most - are all there for anyone to read.”

But Brough has, in fact, never talked about is the communications with Doane on 10 April, or the text to call Ashby on 12 April, or indeed the face to face meeting requested with Ashby on 18 April.

Mr Brough is not telling the whole truth, as he asserts. Far from it.

Earlier in the interview Brough talked about social media. From Sundstrom's article again:
"You send a frivolous message and in a couple of years time it could come back to haunt you," Mr Brough says.

I say, "Yes, we know too well how that has happened".

"The funny thing was the five texts (concerning his involvement with Ashby) were still there because I didn't delete them. I wouldn't have known how," he says casually.

It provides an opening to the Ashby saga and the Australian Federal Police investigation into whether he has breached three sections of the Criminal Code and Crimes Act.

He suggests there is "nothing to talk about".

"It's run its course," he says.

All of this is a smokescreen. The texts referred to were all on James Ashby’s phone. The text messages referred to were on the hard drive in Ashby’s phone, not Brough’s, so that is another distraction to try and limit the exposure he has to real questions about the matters he hasn’t revealed.



Comment Twelve

In MEDIA ELEVEN ON 7 February 2013, Simon Cullen of ABC online wrote of Brough’s latest comments:
Asked whether he thought it was wrong or illegal to obtain parts of Mr Slipper's diary, Mr Brough replied: "Mr Slipper's now about to face court next week and be charged ... on criminal offences relating to allegations of misuse of travel [entitlements].

"I think that's the right and proper place for such matters to be decided, so it would be entirely wrong of me to make any comment whatsoever about such issues."

He went on to say:
"There is nothing more to add. There is no other meetings, connections or whatever else," he told ABC News.

"All of the discussion, the text messages - of which there is about half a dozen at most - are all there for anyone to read.

"I have nothing to be ashamed of or would change.

"A person (James Ashby) came to me for assistance. I suggested that they go and get legal advice. I suggested they go to police if they believed a crime had been committed.

"And that is the sum total of my involvement."

This is such a complete misrepresentation of his involvement, as we have shown, it is a outright affront to us all that he was allowed to get away with this statement.

These are the questions we would like answered:

  1. Why do you think James Ashby sent you the three diary  images on 29 March 2012?

  2. Had you discussed getting information from Peter Slipper’s diary at anytime between the 23 March and when they arrived on your phone on 29 March?

  3. If you had given Ashby Advice on 23 March 2012  to go and see a lawyer about the sexual harassment charge and to go to the AFP about the cabcharge vouchers, why did you need to see him again on 30 March 2012?

  4. What time did you meet with Ashby and Doane on 30 March 2012? Who was at the meeting of 30 March 2012, apart from yourself Ashby and Doane? Who is Jackie and was she present?

  5. If Jackie wasn’t present on 30 March 2012, why do Ashby and Doane talk about Jackie arranging a barrister who is high up in the LNP for $1.

  6. Is this ‘Jackie” your former parliamentary colleague, Jackie Kelly?

  7. Did Jackie Kelly arrange the meeting between David Russell QC and yourself, Ashby and Doane?

  8. When was the last time you were in touch with Jackie Kelly?

  9. Please tell us why you called Ashby on 12 April 2012?

  10. Please tell us why you emailed Ashby on 18 April 2012?

  11. In the email of 18 April, you mention potential problems, what were they?

  12. Did you meet with James Ashby on 18 April 2012?

  13.  If you did meet with James Ashby on 18 April 2012 what did you discuss?

  14. ENDNOTE: Joining the dots about Jackie Kelly.

    Jackie Kelly was a Squadron Leader in the Royal Australian Airforce. Her profession in the service was as a lawyer. During her service, she would almost certainly have become acquainted with David Russell, who was Judge Advocate from 1988 -2004 (page 30/84):

    http://www.fedcourt.gov.au/case-management-services/access-to-files-and-transcripts/court-documents/ashby-v-commonwealth/ashby-commonwealth-of-australia/2-Oct-2012-Book-of-Evidence-Part1.pdf

    Jackie Kelly, from Wikipedia:

    In 1996, Kelly was elected twice to the seat of Lindsay, based around the suburb of Penrith on the western fringe of Sydney. The first time was at the general election on 2 March 1996; however she was later disqualified because of her RAAF employment, and not having taken steps to renounce her New Zealand citizenship. After addressing these issues, she was re-elected at a by-election on 19 October 1996 with an increased majority.[1] ·

    So, their service coincided.



    Jackie may also be remembered for this Channel Nine Sunday program:
    Each day Jackie Kelly is in Canberra, she claims the $145 tax free allowance. “I stay with an ex friend of mine from the RAAF”. Does she pay a $145 a night rent? “I make it up for her in gifts and things around the house”. It seems she would pocket a fair proportion of the allowance but Jackie maintains that when she’s in Canberra expenses go up. “Compared to Penrith it’s an incredibly expensive city”.

    ~ Paul Ransley, Politicians & Travel Rorts, Sunday, October 5, 1997

    Catch up on IA's full Ashbygate investigation here:

    Click here for IA's Ashbygate investigation.
    Click here for IA's Ashbygate investigation.

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