Open letter to SC Daily: Time to ask Brough some real questions about Ashbygate

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The Sunshine Coast Daily are taking a train trip with Mal Brough. In an open letter, Margo Kingston lays out the questions they should be asking him about Ashbygate.
(Click on image to read story in the Sunshine Coast Daily.)

January 20, 2013

Mr Darren Burnett,
Sunshine Coast Daily
(via email)

Dear Sir,

Re: Your paper’s impending interview on the train with Mal Brough this week

I am a former political journalist who co-publishes the citizen journalism project Australians for Honest Politics. Today a Sunshine Coast resident pointed me to a story in your paper yesterday quoting Mr Brough and announcing his agreement to accompany a reporter on a return train trip Sunshine Coast to Brisbane next week (http://m.sunshinecoastdaily.com.au/news/only-three-mps-will-go-the-journey/1723681/).

As you would be aware, Mr Brough has refused all media interviews since the Federal Court handed down its judgement in the Ashby case on December 12 last year. It thus appears that your paper now has exclusive access to Mr Brough, and therefore the potential to create national news with your pending interview.

In addition, Mr Richard Ackland, among others, have noted with concern that large media groups have failed to pursue the #Ashby matter since the judgement. As he wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald on January 18 before detailing some of the unsolved mysteries of the matter (http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/surely-the-coalition-smell-hasntevaporated-20130117-2cw5l.html):
The investigative bloodhounds of the press have let Tony Abbott and other leading Coalition ornaments off the hook. There are still so many loose threads dangling off the James Ashby case it is amazing that those dedicated to holding politicians to account have let this one pass...

In addition, in light of the adverse findings against Mr Brough by the Court, Labor MP Graham Perrett has asked the Australian Federal Police to investigate whether Mr Brough has breached three sections of the Criminal Code and Crimes Act, including the procuring of unauthorised access to Mr Peter Slipper’s diary (http://resources.news.com.au/files/2012/12/22/1226542/306440-hs-file-perretts-letter-to-afp.pdf).

To be honest, me and many others envy your paper’s unique opportunity to inform the Australian public about this matter through your opportunity to question Mr Brough at such length. I thought you may be interested in questions members of the AFHP citizen journalism project would most like answers to and hope our input helps your reporter prepare for the interview.

Questions to Mr Brough we’d like to know the answers to The Slipper diary entries

1. What information regarding the diaries did you receive from Ashby?

2. What dates did it cover?

3. Why did you want the information?

4. What use did you make of the information?

5. Do you consider it ethical to gain unauthorised access to someone’s else’s diary?

6. What action would you have taken as a sitting MP if your diary was stolen and given to a political rival?

7. Have you had any contact with the AFP since the judgement?

Personal help for Ashby and Doane

8. Did you discuss getting employment for Ashby and Doane?

9. What steps did you take to assist them?

10. Did you know Ashby or Doane before they began working for Mr Slipper?

Dealings with Ashby

11. What did Ashby tell you re any possible legal action against Slipper?

12. Why didn’t you advise Ashby to follow standard and correct HR procedure if he felt he was being harassed?

13. What contact have you had with Ashby, his lawyer, agent or anyone else connected with the Court case since the judgement?

14. Do you believe Ashby is an honest person, and if so on what basis?

Dealings with Steve Lewis

15. What dealings did you have with Steve Lewis?

16. Did you refer Ashby to Lewis?

Other dealings on the matter

17. What meetings in 2012 did you arrange or attend which mentioned or discussed Ashby, what was discussed in each and who else was in attendance.

18. To which LNP or Liberal party MPs did you give prior notice of the Ashby Court action? Which had prior knowledge, to your knowledge?

19. Have you had any contact with anyone from Ashby’s lawyers in the Court case?

20. Do you have any knowledge of who is paying Ashby’s legal fees?

21. Did you take any steps to help fund the case?

22. Who is funding Ashby’s appeal?

Ashby judgement

23. Have you read the judgement by Justice Rares?

24. Do you agree with his findings about what you did and why? If not, which parts do you agree with and which parts don’t you agree with.

25. Why haven’t you issued a detailed response to the judgement?

Your public statements about your involvement

26. Why did you tell the Australian people when first asked about this matter that you had no involvement?

27. Please explain why you then misled the Australian people about the extent of your involvement? See http://www.crikey.com.au/2012/06/27/ashby-is-no-grech-momentunless-youre-mal-brough/

Twice now Brough has been revealed as having misled the public over his role in the affair. The first time was in early May when, in the aftermath of Fairfax’s Jessica Wright outing him as having met with Ashby, he arranged a tell-all explanation to The Australian, complete with photo shoot with his wife, to explain he’d met with Ashby three times and had only spoken to a small number of trusted legal advisers about the matter, and not anyone else in the Coalition or LNP.

That marked a change from his position of just a few days earlier, that claims he was aware of the legal action beforehand were “nonsense”.

We now know, courtesy of yesterday’s document release by the Federal Court, that he was misleading the public again with his claims to The Oz, and was a key player in the co-ordination of what appears to have been a campaign to damage Slipper, trying to arrange a job within the LNP for another disaffected trying to arrange a job within the LNP for another disaffected Slipper staffer, Karen Doane. Ashby is also alleged to have emailed Brough with confidential material from Slipper’s diary.

Several members of the AFHP citizen journalism project are lawyers, and would be glad to discuss these questions or other details of the Ashby case with your or your reporter should you so wish.

Good luck with the interview!

Yours sincerely.

Margo Kingston

Twitter - @margokingston1
Website - http://australiansforhonestpolitics.wordpress.com

(For information on how to contact the Sunshine Coast Daily yourself, please click here. For Independent Australia's full investigation into Ashbygate please click here.)

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