LOUISE HALL June 15, 2012
James Ashby ... court told he supplied information to journalist Steve Lewis and Mal Brough.
James Ashby, who worked as a media adviser to the Speaker of the Federal Parliament, Peter Slipper, worked to undermine his boss by giving information to a tabloid journalist and to his political rivals, a court has heard.
David Chin, the barrister for Mr Slipper, told the Federal Court today that Mr Ashby's lawsuit for sexual harassment has been designed to cause "political and reputational damage" to the Speaker and for the "political advantage of his political opponents in the Liberal-National party", including former Howard cabinet minister Mal Brough.
Julian Burnside, QC, for the Commonwealth, told Justice Steven Rares that mobile phone records show Mr Ashby and another adviser, Karen Doane, "were working together to undermine Mr Slipper when they were still working for him".
Mr Burnside alleged the two advisers "provided sensitive material" to News Ltd journalist Steve Lewis - who was present in the court's public gallery today - and provided "politically sensitive information" to Mr Brough.
He said there were "interesting texts" sent between Mr Ashby, Ms Doane, Mr Lewis and Mr Brough.
The court heard the Commonwealth was considering the ongoing employment of Mr Ashby and Ms Doane in the light of the phone records.
Justice Rares granted leave to issue subpoenas to Mr Lewis, Mr Brough, Ms Doane and Mr Ashby's media spokesman Anthony McClellan.
A notice to produce will be issued to Mr Ashby.
Mr Burnside said Ms Doane and Mr Ashby had been on paid leave since the matter "blew up" - and that it was caused by their own actions.
He said the two staffers used material "they should never have leaked to the press and to former members of Parliament".
He said the Commonwealth, as their employer, wanted mobile phone records to "review" their continued employment as a matter of urgency.
He said some text messages referred to paragraphs in the affidavits that had been filed in the matter.
"It's a matter of concern that since then they have been on paid leave and this is a matter that needs to be put to rest quickly," he said.
Meanwhile, Justice Rares ordered Mr Ashby's lawyers to provide the Commonwealth and Mr Slipper's lawyers with an unredacted version of his April 13 affidavit.
Michael Lee, SC, for Mr Ashby, had argued the redacted parts were covered by legal professional privilege.
But Justice Rares rejected this, saying privilege had been waived.
The hearing continues.
This afternoon, Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said that the Commonwealth believed that Mr Ashby's allegations were an "abuse of process" and that the case had an "ulterior purpose".
"A number of other participants other than the applicant were party to formulating this complaint," Ms Roxon told reporters in Melbourne this afternoon.
"It will be clearly shown ... that there were in fact clear intention to harm Mr Slipper and bring his reputation into disrepute," she said.