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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.





ASHBY V SLIPPER APPEAL: the first round.

There were surprisingly few members of the general public present at today’s directions hearing before Emmett J in the matter of the Ashby v Slipper applications for leave to appeal to the Full Bench of the Federal Court. Is this issue dead in the water with the masses and is now only of interest to the mainstream media? I’ll let others decide.

The applications for leave to appeal were not heard today but will be heard before the Full Bench of the Federal Court during their May sittings. At the conclusion of the matter before Emmett J representatives of all parties toddled off to hammer out suitable dates in May.

It was made clear by Emmett J that if leave to appeal is granted by the Full Bench then they would likely go on to hear the appeal at that time during their May sittings.

One thing that did amuse me was the issue of the length of written submissions arguing a case for the leave to appeal to be either granted or rejected. Apparently written submissions are limited to 10 pages but parties for Harmer asked for them to be increased to 30 pages. Emmett J granted this request subject to the presiding judge of the Full Bench countering the request and enforcing the 10 page rule. (For some reason this tickled my fancy and I had a quiet snigger).

The other matter for business was the issue of costs being awarded to Slipper as a result of Rare’s decision now, of course, the subject of two applications for leave to appeal.

Emmett J slated the hearing on costs to 30th May. The logic seems to be if leave isn’t granted then the hearing on costs can go ahead, but it will be totally dependent on the outcome of the leave to appeal.

So bing bang wallah wallah bing bang – all over in a very short time.

The other highly amusing thing for me was my engagement with members of the mainstream media in the lift going down while they chatted between themselves trying to sort out what had just happened in court.

It was my “OH For Fuck’s Sake” moment as I then, without the benefit of any notes, gave them a six point summary as to what had happened – all done and dusted before we hit the ground floor. Once outside the court precincts I was asked to repeat what I had said in the lift, which I did while notes were taken, much to the amusement of the delightful Ross Jones, my comrade for the morning and occasional contributor to Independent Australia, the on-line magazine.

To my very best new friends in the MSM: Today wasn’t exactly rocket science, and it helps to prepare and listen to what is being said in court instead of chatting, even if it is about the case. I don’t even want to think about what is not being taught in journalism degrees.

The focus of the Ashby-Slipper story will change as this appeal proceeds. It isn’t about Ashby anymore or, for that matter, Slipper. Well, maybe a bit. But they are now playing second fiddle to Michael Harmer. Make no mistake Harmer is now driving this engine. That is the story in my view. Appeals will be lodged all the way if necessary because at stake is Harmer’s professional reputation and career. If I was occupying Harmer’s shoes I would be doing the same.

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