Mal Brough
Mal Brough Greg Miller

Govt says Brough should be stripped of LNP endorsement

THE Federal Government says Mal Brough should be stripped of his pre-selection for the seat of Fisher over his role in bringing a sexual harassment claim against Peter Slipper.

In throwing out James Ashby's sexual harassment claim on Wednesday, Justice Steven Rares was highly critical of Mr Brough's conduct in the lead-up to the action being launched.

Parliamentary Secretary Mark Dreyfus told reporters in Canberra Mr Brough's position was "untenable", adding the Liberal National Party should "hang their heads in shame" for pre-selecting him.

"Mal Brough is up to his neck in this conspiracy and that's directly from the judgment," Mr Dreyfus said.

"Mal Bough's position is untenable. He should immediately be disendorsed by the Liberal National Party of Queensland.

Mr Brough released a very short statement, saying: "Today's judgement in the Federal Court changes nothing in relation to Mr Slipper's vile text messages.

"I am sure the people of Fisher are looking forward to their opportunity to have their say on Mr Slipper's behaviour.

"I reiterate that I have at all times acted appropriately in relation to this matter and given the decision is subject to appeal I do not intend to make further comment.''

Mr Dreyfus said Mr Brough should have known better than to get involved.

"This is a man who was a senior minister in the Howard government ... and he, of all people, should have known the wrong that he was engaging in in seeking to bring down the government ... by a misuse of court proceedings."

>>Detailed coverage of the Peter Slipper court judgment here

>>Opinion: Peter Slipper like a cat with nine lives

The LNP issued a statement a short time ago saying Mr Brough would "provide a strong voice for the people of Fisher in Federal Parliament and help deliver the change of government in Canberra that Australia needs".

It declined to comment further pending Mr Ashby's appeal.

Mr Dreyfus, a former Melbourne barrister, also called on Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to "come clean" on what he, his office and other Coalition frontbenchers knew in the lead-up to Mr Ashby launching the court action in April.

He said Mr Abbott was using "weasel words" to distance himself from what was an "extraordinary and unprecedented attack" on the government and Mr Slipper.

"It's now clear, and Justice Steven Rares has made it clear in his findings of fact today, that is was no surprise at all to Tony Abbott when this proceeding was served," he said.

"Seniors members of the Liberal Party had clearly been involved in preparing for the service of proceedings on Peter Slipper ... on his return to Australia.

"It's a political attack that's been made here on the government of Australia ... that was designed to change the balance in the House of Representatives."

Pressed on what evidence there was anyone in the opposition had knowledge of the impending court action, Mr Dreyfus could only say Mr Abbott and others were "ducking and weaving".

Mr Dreyfus said the Commonwealth had been vindicated for bringing an abuse of process claim against Mr Ashby, even though it later reached a $50,000 settlement.

He said the government was right to seek a swift conclusion to the matter rather than dragging it though the courts at taxpayers' expense.

But in throwing out the case on Wednesday, Justice Rares ordered Mr Ashby to pay all of Mr Slipper's legal costs.

Mr Dreyfus said the government would study Justice Rares's judgment before deciding whether to take further action.

He would not be drawn on whether the government would open an inquiry or return Mr Slipper to the Speaker's chair.

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