One of the issues stalking the beleaguered Labor Party is the sexual harassment allegations leveled at the Speaker of federal parliament Peter Slipper, by staffer, James Ashby. Labor and especially the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Antony Albanese has been attempting to bury the case.
With the discovery that Ashby had been in communication with senior Liberals and a News Ltd journalist, Albanese, Slipper and others have alleged that a conspiracy was created. Since then the stakes have been raised to the point of alleging a criminal conspiracy existed.
This has backfired badly for the government with a Federal Court Judge likening their actions to a police state:
Federal minister Anthony Albanese had compared the Ashby case to Watergate and called for the Australian Federal Police to investigate Mr Ashby's behaviour in allegedly leaking parts or Mr Slipper's diary to political rivals and the media. These comments were highlighted by Mr Ashby's lawyer Michael Lee SC as evidence of the fact Mr Ashby was being accused of criminal conspiracy.Labor may not have much idea of what they are doing, but they certainly know who and how to hate. The venomous, vindictive, and vitriolic Albanese is the star of the party in so far as over the top rhetoric goes. His desire to have anyone who criticizes the party for any reason, tossed in the slammer has caused a grave breach of faith with the public at large and even some supporters.
Mr Lee also produced a letter from Mr Slipper's lawyers requesting text message communications from Mr Ashby to fellow Slipper staffer Karen Doane, former Howard government Minister Mal Brough and News Limited journalist Steve Lewis, which would be provided to the AFP for a possible criminal investigation.
Mr Ashby is suing the Speaker Mr Slipper for sexual harassment, with Mr Slipper and the commonwealth arguing that the case is an abuse of process.
However Justice Steven Rares in the Federal Court this morning said that the allegations of a criminal conspiracy from Mr Slipper and senior ministers meant that Mr Ashby could no longer be forced to make a submission against the allegations in the civil case because he may incriminate himself.
"You have raised the stakes, now in raising the stakes you cannot just pull back a bit . . . You don't know how somebody might use that information in a criminal investigation," Justice Rares told Mr Slipper's lawyer David Chin.
"He does not have to give his name if he is involved in and suspected of a crime . . . If we do not uphold those rights in our society we live in a police state.”
Justice Rares said the counter allegations by Mr Slipper and ministers of a criminal conspiracy meant it would almost be impossible for Mr Ashby to be compelled to file a statement in response to the abuse of process claim.