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Turnbull invites the #Ashbygate zombie to haunt his new government.

Mal Brough

The Ashby Affair is like a zombie, one of the undead. You can’t kill it with an axe. It just keeps on walking, slowly and inexorably, towards those who were involved in this sorry saga.

While Mal Brough remains in Parliament the issue of his role in the tawdry affair will not go away.

Brough’s elevation to the Special Minister of State by new Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, presumably for leadership spill services rendered, has reinstated the Ashby affair as an issue of concern, as it should. Not even Tony Abbott was prepared to appoint Mal Brough to any Cabinet position whilst question marks hung over the Ashby affair like the sword of Damocles.

It is ironic that among Brough’s new and probably most important duties, is the responsibility for those agencies which manage the integrity matters of a working Parliament; agencies such as, The Australian Electoral Office, the Ombudsman and the National Auditors, among others.

The key issue at the heart of the Rare’s decision in Ashby v Slipper is the abuse of the administration of justice. It was an application from Slipper’s lawyers that the case in which Ashby alleged sexual harassment by Slipper, be dismissed. By the time Rares’ brought down his decision to dismiss the case there was a mountain of evidence, raising serious doubts as to Ashby’s veracity and implicating others in the Ashby v Slipper saga.

One of those key others to benefit from Slipper’s political demise was Mal Brough, aka by his Ashby affair codename of Jacky. Many in the Opposition believed at the time that with a hung Parliament, getting rid of the then Speaker of the House, Slipper would bring down the Gillard Government, which was sufficient motivation for the apparent cloak and dagger operations as outlined in so many of the emails and text messages submitted in evidence. It did not bring down the Government as it happens, but Brough went on to win Slipper’s old seat in the 2013 Federal election, and Tony Abbott become PM.

The Rares’ decision was over-turned by a split decision of the Full Bench of the Federal Court essentially on a technical issue of uncontested evidence. All evidence given by Ashby and Harmer went unchallenged by an unrepresented Slipper and was therefore, in the view of two of the three judges, a failure by Rares J.

In the concluding paragraphs of their majority judgement Mansfield J. and Gilmour J. said as follows:

“We are satisfied that the evidence before the primary judge [Rares} did not warrant the adverse finding said to constitute an abuse of the Court’s process on the two bases found and did not warrant the rejection by His Honour of the sworn and unchallenged evidence of each of Ashby and Harmer.” Ashby Appeal decision Mansfield J and Gilmour J (par.225)

This was in response to those paragraphs in the Rares judgment, which included the following:

Having read all of the text messages…as well as the other evidence, I have reached the firm conclusion that Mr Ashby’s predominant purpose for bringing these proceedings was to pursue a political attack against Mr Slipper and not to vindicate any legal claim he may have for which the right to bring proceedings exist. …As Mr Ashby and Ms Doane agreed in their texts of 30 March 2012 what they were doing ‘will tip the govt to Mal’s [Brough] and the LNP’s advantage”: [66] Rares decision para.196

“…Mr Ashby acted in combination with Ms Doane and Mr Brough when commencing the proceedings in order to advance the interests of the LNP and Mr Brough. Mr Ashby and Ms Doane set out to use the proceedings as part of their means to enhance or promote their prospects of advancement or preferment by the LNP, including by using Mr Brough to assist them in doing so. And the evidence also established that the proceedings were an abuse of the process of the Court for the reasons I have given” Rares J [par. 199]

Siopis J, in his minority decision, did what judges are supposed to do, and weighed the abundant evidence before coming to a decision that the appeal be dismissed. He believed the evidence substantiated Rares’ J judgment that the process had been abused and therefore tainted.

There is an irony to this story. If Rares J had let the original case proper, Ashby v Slipper, continue until the very end, then the claims of not having ‘my day in court’ and uncontested evidence may have resulted in a totally different outcome.

Throughout the appeal the one dominate plea pushed by Ashby and his legal and PR representatives, was that he did not have his full ‘day in court’ on the sexual harassment matter. Of course, within a few months after the appeal decision dismissing the Rares’ judgment was published, Ashby withdrew the allegations of sexual harassment giving Slipper’s mental state as his primary reason. The Ashby v Slipper matter was no more. Ultimately there was no ‘day in court’. After all, the strategy had been successful. Slipper was a man broken beyond repair; Brough was to become the new MP, and the LNP the newly elected Government.

And what about the abuse of the justice system? It had taken yet another body blow.

Brough’s admission on 60 Minutes in an interview with Liz Hayes that he’d asked Ashby for Slipper’s diary entries was a matter that should’ve resulted in an immediate AFP inquiry. It was an extraordinary admission, which underscored concerns about the abuse of the administration of justice in this matter.

An abuse of the justice process sounds as boring as watching paint dry, and it is.

Is it so very important? Critically so.

The ‘administration of justice’ as a principle goes hand in hand with the principle of ‘open justice’, and they both form a key foundation stone on which any democratic society is built. Undermine it, and the fabric of your democracy starts to crumble. Extremist totalitarian and corrupt regimes, whether fascist or communist, flourish as a result.

Hence we get to the nub of the problem. The Opposition under Abbott and subsequently as Government, always seemed content to use the justice system as a political weapon in an endeavor to defeat or exact revenge from identified opponents. It has been their M.O. The pursuit of Slipper in which Brough was involved, as were others in the Government, is just one example. The Ashby affair has also raised the concern in its being just another step in the apparent politicization of the Australian Federal Police, and in on going attempts to politicize the courts.

In the last two years we have seen in operation three Royal Commissions. The Royal Commission into the sexual abuse of children by institutions has been a very fine example of how a Royal Commission should be structured and how it should behave. There was no political agenda, the terms of reference were broad and it appeared driven by a desire to get to the truth. It was implemented by the previous Government and continues despite budget cut-backs.

The Royal Commission into Pink Batts was designed to attack the Abbott Government’s political opponents, which it did although not very successfully, and has now faded into obscurity.

The Trade Union Royal Commission is similarly being used to achieve a political end. Its narrow terms of reference were designed to only identify corruption in certain unions and union officials. TURC certainly wasn’t supposed to find companies who may be complicit in the corruption, nor favoured whistle-blowers like Kathy Jackson. Turc’s performance, its treatment of company officials who’ve been called, Kathy Jackson and lack of real understanding of Industrial Relations law enshrined in High Court precedents has resulted in its abject failures so far to ‘get their man’ or ‘woman’. Its competence aside, it has now been tainted beyond repair. TURC, it seems, is proving to be ‘a bridge too far’.

These two Royal Commissions are part of this M.O.; one of using the justice system as a weapon to achieve an outcome as part of a political agenda. These are Abbott’s legacies, and therein lies the real problem for Malcolm Turnbull. He’s inherited them.

By appointing Mal Brough to the Cabinet, Turnbull runs the risk of being tainted by the odour that seems to follow the Ashby saga wherever it goes. One thing is certain. It is not going away.

If, as is being reported by the mainstream media, the AFP is continuing to investigate these allegations then questions arise as to the appropriateness of Brough to be given any Cabinet position, especially one involving probity and ethics.


This article was published on , 23rd September 2015.

I never knew his name.

Last night a man died. I’ve known him now for over five years. I never knew his name.

There are thousands of homeless people living rough in Sydney. This man was one of them.

He was a gentle giant who didn’t have much to say except a whispered hello or thank you.

My husband and I live in a very swanky apartment complex by the harbour. We first encountered our very own homeless person on the night we moved in. It was a balmy summer’s night and he was sound asleep on a bench by the water’s edge. His gentle snoring made us tip-toe past so we wouldn’t wake him.

In the five plus years since there hasn’t been a day when we haven’t seen him. He was adopted by both the residents and commercial operators in this complex. If it rained he took shelter under an awning near a fire escape. Umbrellas would magically appear. Residents fed him; clothes given to him. Security wouldn’t move him on instead only checked that he was ok and had everything he needed. A locker was provided for his few possessions. At night his gentle snores could be heard if you went outside to look at the stars reflections playing on the water. The seagulls congregating for their morning breakfast of breadcrumbs from his dinner the previous night, were a welcome wake-up call.

He didn’t want emergency housing. He liked Pyrmont, and so he stayed.

He became ill this week. Hot soup became a staple. A doctor was organised to come and pay him a house call. There was great concern for his health. He refused to go to hospital and died in the early hours of yesterday morning.

I don’t know if there is any family but he had become a part of our community for over a decade. He will be missed.

There are no gentle snores tonight.

Today I learnt his name. It was Andy.

Andy's  Bench. Photo c/- Marcelle Hoff

Andy’s Bench.
Photo c/- Marcelle Hoff


Karen Doane c/- Independent Australia

Karen Doane
c/- Independent Australia


Any matter involving Peter Slipper would appear to be always complicated, never easy. The simple matter of a mention before the Federal Circuit Court today proved to be no different. Instead of just setting dates for hearings to commence the court ended up with a new version of a legal soap opera.

 Before Judge Manousaridis legal representatives involved in Doane v Slipper & Anor., were pushed to the end of the queue. It appeared everybody knew that this was going to be the first round of the next chapter in the on-going legal serial.

 And so it proved.

 Mr S Berry was the first to throw a curveball in the proceedings. He is representing Peter Slipper in this matter, but at this stage only conditionally. The nature of the condition was never spelt out, but he assured the court it would be sorted out in the next few days.

 Miss Marks from Harmer’s solicitors and representing Karen Doane was quick to complain about the difficulties her firm had faced in being able to serve Mr Slipper with the Statement of Claim. Mr Berry replied by requesting an adjournment of four weeks.

 Mr Berry explained to the court that he wasn’t prepared to be served with the Statement of Claim until all the conditional aspects of his representation of Mr Slipper were finalized, and, further to that, when he had received final instructions from his client.

 Miss Wright, representing the Commonwealth of Australia, seemed resigned to play the supernumerary role in the next chapter of this legal “Days of our Lives”.

 To further complicate the issue there was a concern expressed by Miss Marks about the involvement of an insurer who was opposing any Government liability in this matter.

 Once an insurer is involved in these matters court cases can take forever as there’s another player in the game who doesn’t want to part with a cent.

 Judge Manousaridis cut through the growing gordian knot by referring back to the existing Statement of Claim filed by Miss Doane.

 His Honour said that the Statement of Claim was too general and needed to be specific in details about the breaches of the relevant sections of the Acts.

 The current Statement of Claim just quotes the relevant sections of the Acts, which Miss Doane argues have been breached.

 These breaches include the following:

 s.14(2)(a) and/or (b) and/or (d) of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth);

 s.15(1)(b) of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth);

 s.15(2)(a) and/or (b) and/or (d) of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth).

 What is omitted from Doane’s Statement of Claim is how these sections of the various Acts have been breached.

 Miss Marks attempted to justify the existing Statement of Claims by stating they were “concerned about the increasing cost of the case”, and had been hoping to use the breaches outlined in the Human Rights Commission hearings where orders were sought by Doane for alleged breaches by Slipper of s.46PO(4)(a) and (d) of the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth), and s,15(2) of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth).

 Judge Manousaridis stated that the Human Rights Commission documentation “was interesting but not relevant to the process here…”

 He ordered Doane to file a detailed and specific Statement of Claim, and gave her four weeks to comply.

 He then ordered Mr Berry to reply to this Statement of Claim in five weeks, giving Mr Berry more than sufficient time to not only sort out his instructions from his client, but also submit a defence to the more appropriately constructed Statement of Claim.


Peter and Inge Slipper at the Ashby v Slipper Appeal hearing. c/- Ross Jones and Independent Australia

Peter and Inge Slipper at the Ashby v Slipper Appeal hearing.
c/- Ross Jones and Independent Australia

… to be continued …





Melbourne’s MarchInMarch.
c/- The Age.


The fortnight began with the #MARCHinMARCH.  Over 100,000 people took to the streets because they’ve already had enough of Abbott’s policies, which seem to be so driven by ideology. The IPA, a tea-party styled think-tank, and their itemized conservative wish list is being ticked off a few items at a time.

The mainstream media didn’t cover the #MarchInMarch events despite its turn out although various St Patrick’s Day marches received prominence on page 3 of most main publications. Social media was, as usual, bitingly sarcastic about the lack of coverage. This prompted various replies but the most interesting was Jacqueline Maley’s from the SMH.

It was a grudging apology at best, but quickly descended to justification about a digital coverage of the most offensive placards she could find.  To be honest there weren’t that many. There is always going to be placards that offend present at any demonstration. I was surprised at how few there were. Of course this seemed to be that the angle that was taken by most in the mainstream media. Sky News air-headed reporter Laura Jayes had tweeted a request for people to send her their photographs of offensive placards. Well, we all knew at that point what angle Sky News was going to take in their coverage of this event. Silly woman.

Jacqueline Maley’s other main complaint was that the March in March was unfocused. I want to apologise at the outset that there isn’t a war in Southeast Asia on which we can all focus. She missed the most interesting and newsworthy aspects of this story.

This demonstration was organic in origin. It wasn’t organised by a political party, a trade union or any other institution, think-tank, association and the like. It grew organically from and through social media. It went on to resonate throughout the country. It wasn’t confined to the big cities. Marches occurred throughout all rural and regional centres. The MarchInMarch movement is a new phenomenon worthy of research and analysis by the media.

Not being driven by a single issue was one of the more newsworthy aspects of these demonstrations. Virtually all policy initiatives that have been presented by this government within the last six months were the subject of outrage by those participating.

That was the real story of #MarchinMarch.

As a result an eclectic coalition of concerned citizens has sprung to life.

THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT ARFUR:                                                      Image

To understand the significance of what a problem the Sinodinos issue is for the federal government you need to know a little bit about his background.

Arthur was one of the back-room mainstays of Howard’s term as prime minister. He left his job as Howard’s Chief of Staff with plenty of plaudits being perceived as super smart, highly competent, shrewd, intelligent and tactically astute. He went on to become the Treasurer of the Federal Liberal Party until his election to the Senate in 2011.

Sinodinos was, until a few weeks ago, the assistant treasurer as he was deamed numerate, unlike his colleague Joe Hockey who, in another highlight of the week, was challenged in understanding the difference between deficit versus debt, much to the hilarity of the other side of the House.

Sinodinos’s involvement in the highly questionable dealings of Australian Water Holdings, and his relationships with the Obeid family are currently being examined by ICAC.  This is from a man who was regarded as one of the smartest on the Front Bench. In any normal government with consideration for their appearance as being clean and above board, his return to any position of influence or authority would not be considered for a second.

But then, this is Tony Abbott’s government.


Suspension of FUTURE of FINANCIAL ADVICE Reforms:


One of the items on the IPA’s agenda has been a reform of the Labor Government’s Future of Financial Advice legislation which outlawed the previous practice of financial advisers taking commissions from companies whose investment packages financial advisors then on-sold to their clients.

Many small investors and self-funded retirees always thought this outrageous as it easily exposed them to being ripped off. Financial advisers and consultants did not have to inform their clients about any commissions they were receiving from the sale of investment packages.

The absence of regulation in this area resulted in numerous cases of abuse where ordinary people lost considerable amounts of money due to questionable advice driven by greed.

Sinodinos was one of the main proponents for this legislative change. It’s a sweet irony that his involvement with AWH has resulted in an undignified appearance before ICAC; an appearance, which will, more than likely, result in the end of any parliamentary ambitions Sinodinos may have had. It certainly raises the question as to just how professionally and financially astute he really is. His reputation for being one of the smartest men in the room is no longer viable as a Government commodity that can easily be sold to the electorate.

This issue will not disappear quickly as Mr Sinodinos’s role as AWH’s chairman and director must surely be further scrutinised by other appropriate authorities.


Attorney-General BRANDIS and the RIGHT TO BEING A BIGOT                                    


The attorney general, George Brandis, introduced his amendments to the Racial Discrimination Act, in particular section 18, which are are now known as the Bolt amendments so named after that well-known shock jock, Andrew Bolt. Mr Bolt’s continual whinge has been against those aspects of the law which prevent him from pursuing what he perceives is his right to be a racist, bigot, misogynist and all round not very nice person.

In introducing the Bolt amendments to the act Brandis managed to shoot himself in the foot by stating, “It’s everyone’s right to be a bigot.” The fact is there are many bigots, racists, homophobes, misogynists etc, out there, but they don’t want to be reminded that they are bigoted, racist, misogynistic, homophobic et al. Brandis, in one little line, did just that, and a storm of outrage from a broad-based community was the result. 

Any changes to this piece of legislation were always going to be fraught with danger. Brandis’s mismanagement of the introduction and promotion of the Bolt amendments is further indicative of a government that is increasingly being described as Australia’s most inept yet.

The changes to the Racial Discrimination Act are now being put on the backburner as the Government scuttles about looking for more acceptable amendments that they might be able to sell. The New South Wales Premier, Barry O’Farrell, sealed the Bolt amendments delayed fate by stating publicly that these amendments were unacceptable.

Bolt must be furious.




The twitter reaction to Abbott’s resurrection of titular monikers was hilarious. Within minutes of his announcement twitter handles throughout Australia were being changed to reflect his anachronistic move back to the future.

It would have been far more appropriate to announce this on April 1st, but that would’ve prevented Abbott’s using Quentin Bryce as a political pawn in his idiosyncratic move. No discussion was had in Cabinet, much less the coalition party room. It was Abbott’s decision and his alone. It’s worth remembering that the choice of Governor-General is the Prime Minister’s sole preserve. Apparently the same must be for imperial titles, whatever we want to call them this week.

The overriding derision of a large percentage of the population pooping their pants laughing did not go down well with Abbott, but that was nothing to how he must have felt when his hero, John Howard, stated that it was now too anachronistic for titles to be reinstated.

The sound of laughter does not go down well with the Conservative side of the House of Representatives it seems. A sense of the ridiculous will soon be outlawed in this country, because it is now the cause for a MP to be thrown out of the House of Representatives for being unparliamentary, which brings me to Bronwyn Bishop.




From the moment she became Speaker of the House under Abbott’s Government, Bronwyn Bishop signaled her intent as to how she would manage the affairs of the HoR.  It is, therefore, no surprise to anyone when confronted with her blatantly obvious bias to one side of the House.

Previous Speakers have had the good grace and intelligence to attempt to mask their bias when managing and dispensing penalties under Standing Orders. Not so Bronwyn. She is Brunhilde or Boadicea when occupying the Speaker’s chair.

Actually she reminds me of a very scary Scottish teacher of French I had at school. No one who attended her classes ever got constipation.

The thing is Bishop is giving every appearance of not knowing her Standing Orders stuff, which seems to explain her over-the-top treatment of those members who try to bring her to book, which of course in the current political climate is the Opposition.

Bishop carried around the Standing Orders tome for years. I’m now convinced it was as a prop. Whether she is now too old and is therefore losing it, or whether she never had it in the first place; after all she has never been really tested, but in either case I don’t care. It is not in the interest of the Government that she brings the House into serious disrepute through disdain and derision at the performance of her job.

By way of example yesterday’s parliamentary question time was a hoot.  Tony Burke had a list of transgressions and inappropriate behavior on Bishop’s part as Speaker. It must have been very difficult for her to sit there and listen to it, especially when so much of it was met with loud guffaws.

The outcome of Burke’s motion of no confidence in her was always known. It was always going to be decided along party lines, and so it was.  

Bishop’s lack of ability not to bully from the Chair was evident to all when she threw one member out for laughing and warned one and all that if they continued to laugh they would be thrown out as well. Dreyfus suffered a more serious fate. For his interjection of “Madam Speaker” he was named the penalty for which is a 24 hours suspension from the House.

It was also totally and utterly inappropriate that Bishop remained in the Chair as the debate in a no confidence motion in her occurred.  However, my favourite Bishop faux pas was when she wouldn’t even hear a point of order from Burke because she knew what it was going to be about, so she said, and therefore denied it before he could even put it. Bishop really is a disgrace, and she’s giving those of us who hold Senior’s Cards a bad rap.                                              

In the meantime the half-an-hour of hilarity was solace of sorts. As the Readers’ Digest once told me: ‘Laughter is the best medicine.’ 


AND WHILE I’M ABOUT IT.                                                                                          Image



Don’t even start me on George Pell. His apology to Ellis was embarrassing and rude. His behavior throughout has done nothing to dispel the appearance that the Roman Catholic hierarchy is nothing more than an old boys’ club.


And, as for Campbell Newman giving himself a sizeable increase to his salary all the while still in the midst of a slash and burn of the public service that has resulted in thousands now unemployed; nor forgetting the scrapping of essential health, transport, educational and medical services especially in the rural and regional areas – well it just beggars belief.  



In a majority decision of the Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia Justices Mansfield and Gilmour granted James Ashby the leave to appeal and upheld that appeal thereby overturning the decision of Rares J. A minority decision by Siopis J granted Ashby leave to appeal and then dismissed the appeal.

All three judges denied Michael Harmer leave to appeal.

Lawyers will always tell you that there are two key components to any case that must be met if a disaster is to be avoided.

The first is a lawyer striving to provide that hook upon which a judge can hang his hat.

The second is a minefield for the unwary. It won’t necessarily be the law that will bite you in the butt, but rather the procedures required and strategies employed during the progress of a court case.

In the matter of the Ashby appeal both of these fundamental components were ignored by Slipper causing difficulties for the Rare’s decision, and consequently Slipper himself.

In December 2012 Justice Rares granted an interlocutory judgment to Peter Slipper, which in effect dismissed James Ashby’s action alleging sexual harassment against Mr Slipper. The Rares decision dismissed the Ashby case on the grounds that he had found the legal action taken by Mr Ashby was for a different purpose than a quest for justice from some form of legal settlement to a legal problem. That purpose was to harm Peter Slipper politically thereby benefiting the position of Mal Brough and the LNP. Rares J found this to be an abuse of the judicial process and dismissed the sexual harassment case.

Justice Mansfield, Justice Gilmore and Justice Siopis were given the onerous task of hearing an application for leave to appeal the Rares decision by both James Ashby and Mr Ashby’s solicitor, Michael Harmer, a non-party to the proceedings.

For their Honours this was never going to be an easy task. Whichever side of the fence their decision/s fell there was always going to be political repercussions and media interest in the outcome, no matter how hard they tried to avoid them.

Despite Harmer’s leave to appeal being filed after Ashby’s, Harmer’s application for leave to appeal was the first matter dealt with by Mansfield J.

Their Honours were unanimous in denying Michael Harmer leave to appeal on any ground. Siopis J found that Harmer was a non-party to the proceedings who had not been substantially affected by the ‘operation of interlocutory order.’ Mansfield J and Gilmour J found that the interlocutory order did not “itself affect the reputation of Harmer.”

The judiciary must have breathed a collective sigh of relief on that decision. A finding to the contrary would have opened a Pandora’s box of appeal applications from aggrieved professional witnesses against whom adverse findings have been made in a judgment. As each side of a legal argument often has expert witnesses there is always one ego at least, which is going to feel bruised and aggrieved.

Reading between the lines of various comments contained in their decisions it would seem to indicate the disagreement between the three judges may well have been responsible for the additional and unacceptable time taken in reaching and bringing down their judgments. The two-day hearing for the applications for leave to appeal and the appeal proper were heard in the first week of May 2013. The decision was brought down on 27th February 2014.

The majority decision of Mansfield and Gilmour uses muddied language and muddled thinking. Despite the fact that we were in the land of law there still needs to be an obvious logic to any decision driven by a narrative fuelled by precedent and legal interpretation. The decision of Mansfield and Gilmour lacks logic.

Mansfield J and Gilmour J rely heavily on the fact that Justice Rares didn’t accept uncontested evidence. Throughout their decision the words ‘uncontested evidence’ and ‘not cross-examined’ are constantly used. They take the view that evidence that was uncontested or not subject to cross-examination stands irrespective of the body of contrary evidence contained elsewhere.

One such example was the inclusion in the originating application of 2003 allegations of a consensual sexual relationship between Slipper and a member of staff, and allegations about the misuse of Cabcharge vouchers, which had not been reported by Ashby to the appropriate authorities, as in the Federal Police. In Rares’s view it raised questions as to the legitimacy of Ashby’s purpose in bringing the sexual harassment case as these allegations included in the originating application had no ‘legitimate forensic purpose.’

Mansfield J and Gilmour J dismiss this view as Ashby had ‘when his statement of claim was filed, abandoned the 2003 allegations and all the Cabcharge allegations, which the primary judge held … had done harm to Slipper that Ashby and Harmer had intended when those allegations were included in the originating application.’ Of course the original claim filed on Ashby’s behalf by Harmers contained these allegations before being amended some weeks later deleting the 2003 and Cabcharge allegations.

It may seem disingenuous to suggest that the miles of media print and hours of broadcast time devoted to those allegations contained in the originating application didn’t do exactly what Rares J found had been accomplished. It is difficult to see how these original allegations can be detached from the purpose of the proceedings argument but somehow Mansfield and Gilmour seem to manage it.

Much of course is made of Slipper, who was appearing for himself at the time, not cross-examining Harmer when he was in the witness box called by his client, Ashby, to give evidence on the originating application. Nor was Ashby called by Slipper to question him on the purpose behind the inclusion of these allegations in the originating application.

With no cross-examination it is easier to validate existing evidence irrespective of how clumsy or flimsy it may appear to be. Virtually every issue the majority decision considers has at its core the fact that there was uncontested evidence making it easier for them to dismiss any alternative view. This was a serious mistake by Slipper. Even a poor cross-examination would have been better than none.

There is precedence with regards to weight of evidence with the general proposition being that such evidence, which is not ‘inherently incredible and which is unchallenged, ought to be accepted.’ Of course the exception to the rule is that evidence can be rejected if it is contradicted by the facts established elsewhere.

So argued Siopis J who, in his minority decision, continually looks at the weight of the evidence and its consistency with non-verbal evidence contained in 270 pages of text and email messages upon which Slipper was relying.

One such example Siopis J gives is “…the highly probative evidential value of the verbatim transcripts of the text messages sent and received by Mr Ashby, which reflected an accurate record of contemporaneous dealings between Mr Ashby and others, the primary judge had a rich vein of reliable evidence against which to weigh Mr Ashby’s affidavit evidence of his purpose.”

The most blissful example of evidence coming unstuck which Mansfield and Gilmour seem not to get their heads around and, quite frankly, stinks like dead fish sitting out in the summer sun for three days, was the medical certificate supplied to Mr Ashby by Dr Shaiza Mazhar.

It was never given to Slipper’s staff for his sick leave from 10th April but appeared attached as evidence to an affidavit dated 26 September 2012.

The medical certificate was dated the 5th April 2012 and states:

“Mr James Ashby has a medical condition and will be unfit for work from 10/04/2012 to 22/04/2012 inclusive.”

Of course it was during this period that Mr Ashby was in Sydney with News Limited’s Steve Lewis for press coverage of the Cabcharge allegations, and Harmer’s staff preparing documents for a sexual harassment case.

Siopis J describes this evidence as ‘curious.’ What is ‘curious’ is that Mansfield J and Gilmour J didn’t.

The options are now limited for Slipper. He could seek leave to appeal to the High Court, but appears to be without sufficient funds to pursue this option. It is more likely Ashby v Slipper will begin again. Of course Slipper has to contend with the discrimination allegations at the heart of a civil case brought against him by Karen Doane and which will be heard on April 1.

Mr Ashby and his team seem intent to continue with the sexual harassment case so Ashby v Slipper may go back before a new judge and start again at Square 1. I’m sure there will be a few highly placed LNP politicians who hope he doesn’t.



The day was grey and drizzling. The courtroom was cavernous and empty.  The usual motley crew of lawyers, hangers-on and a few representatives from the media, old and new, were scattered throughout the room. On the bench, where their Honours sit, was one glass of water. There were no Slippers.

James Ashby visibly slumped, shed a tear and become overwhelmed with relief when Justice Mansfield, the presiding judge in this appeal, brought down the decision by the Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia in his favour.

At the end of 2012 Justice Rares had thrown out Ashby’s sexual harassment case against Mr Slipper describing it ‘as an abuse of the judicial process’ with the main purpose to cause Mr Slipper ‘significant public, reputational and political damage’ with the aim of advancing ‘… the interests of the Liberal National Party.’

Ashby’s application for leave to appeal the Rares decision was granted, and his appeal was upheld by the Full Court. Costs were awarded in Ashby’s favour.

Harmer’s application for leave to appeal was not successful. He will have to pay the respondent, Peter Slipper, costs.

It was more than half-an-hour after Justice Mansfield pronouncement before Ashby fronted the media outside the Court. Harmer, McClellan and the rest of Ashby’s team were ensconced in one of the many interview rooms that are adjacent to the courts, celebrating their win as well as deciding the answer to the obvious question of ‘where to now’ 

Mr Ashby made it clear that today’s success enabled him to continue with his legal fight, his ‘chance to obtain justice for my original claim against Mr Slipper.’

His legal representatives contend that Ashby had ‘never had a proper hearing on the merits of his case’. This, so they say, is ‘what we’ve been after for a long time.’

There may be a few on the front bench of the LNP Government who hope that Mr Ashby doesn’t continue in his quest for justice and just vanishes into the political ether.  

Time will tell.

In the meantime Mr Slipper could well be fighting on two fronts as his former media advisor, Ms Karen Doane, has brought an action against him alleging discriminatory practices during her period of employment in Mr Slipper’s office. This matter is due to be heard on April 1.





A HARBOURSIDE BEACH BARBIE at the SYDNEY COVE OYSTER BAR – and not a grain of sand. Thank God.

Sydney Cove Oyster Bar on a lovely Spring afternoon celebrating the harbourside beach barbie. Photo by JEE

Sydney Cove Oyster Bar on a lovely Spring afternoon celebrating the harbourside beach barbie. Photo by JEE

The Sydney Cove Oyster Bar is celebrating the SMH’s good food month and their 25th anniversary with a Harbourside Beach Barbie. Chef Rhys Ward has created a menu especially for it, and we were the first beneficiaries.

I started to write a piece about one of my favourite restaurants in Sydney. After a thousand words or more I decided to delete the lot.They say a picture is worth a thousand words so I’ve decided to show you what we ate rather than waffle on. It’s enough to say that all the ingredients are fresh, it’s cooked there and then to perfection, and was as terrific as the photos indicate.

Fresh shucked Sydney rock and Pacific oysters. Photo JEE

Fresh shucked Sydney rock and Pacific oysters. Photo JEE

You can’t go to the Sydney Cove Oyster Bar without having oysters. Our first course was freshly shucked Sydney Rock and Pacific oysters. They were so fresh they were on the point of giving you a wink as you popped them into your mouth.

Chef Rhys Ward with king prawns on the BBQ. Photo JEE

Chef Rhys Ward with king prawns on the BBQ. Photo JEE

The oysters were followed by salt-and-pepper barbecued king prawns. As they were happily being cooked on the BBQ the aroma went wafting down the Quay concourse. Passers-by turned their heads, stopped, sniffed the air and smiled. The scent is the promise of a summer yet to come. What a brilliant advertisement for a restaurant’s food – aromarama.

These locally sourced prawns went from the hot plate to my plate where they didn’t last very long I’m ashamed to say.

Prawns on a plate, but not for long. Photo JEE

Prawns on a plate, but not for long. Photo JEE

The third course is tender chargrilled lamb on skewers, punctuated with mushrooms and cherry tomatoes. The lamb was cooked in rosemary, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil I think. If I’ve left out any ingredient I apologise I was too busy eating to go and ask Rhys for details. I know I’m shameless.

Phys Ward and @pwafork in deep and meaningful (I'm sure) secret men's BBQ business. Photo JEE

Rhys Ward and @pwafork in deep and meaningful (I’m sure) secret men’s BBQ business. Photo JEE

These had my name tag on them.

Tender chargrilled lamb skewers with mushrooms and cherry tomatoes. Photo JEE

Tender chargrilled lamb skewers with mushrooms and cherry tomatoes. Photo JEE

Topped with a little Tzatziki style dollop of creamy yoghurt minty goodness.

...and finally with a dollop of tzatziki. Photo JEE

…and finally with a dollop of tzatziki. Photo JEE

The lamb on skewers was followed by a zingy marinated octopus salad. Octopus, like squid or calamari, is a bellwether dish for me. If it can be cooked just right then the kitchen can cook anything. There is such a short time-frame to get it right. The octopus salad with a nam jam dressing was sensational. There are nuts with this so be warned if you suffer a nut allergy. Let the kitchen know and they can accommodate any problems you may have.

Zingy marinated octopus salad. It was a feast for the eyes as well as the mouth where it quickly disappeared. Photo JEE

Zingy marinated octopus salad. It was a feast for the eyes as well as the mouth where it quickly disappeared. Photo JEE

To finish off the meal is a cool lemon gelato in a cone. It was just the right balance between creamy and zesty.

Rhys Ward, Chef at Sydney Cove Oyster Bar. Photo by JEE

Rhys Ward, Chef at Sydney Cove Oyster Bar. Photo by JEE

For me eating food is a social activity. Good food on its own is always missing something, but when it’s mixed with great company and quite a few laughs it becomes memorable. The ambience and the locale makes this restaurant one to which we always want to return.

The celebrations will occur on Saturdays from 12pm-3pm throughout the month of October. Check out all the details at the Sydney Cove Oyster Bar website

or ring on (02) 9247 2937.