PETER SLIPPER has made an impassioned plea to a court to throw out a sexual harassment case brought against him by his former aide James Ashby.
Mr Slipper, who is representing himself after parting ways with his lawyers, yesterday said the lawsuit was ”dressed up” as a sexual harassment case when it was really designed to ”hurt my political career, hurt me financially, destabilise the government and destroy my marriage”.
Mr Slipper appeared close to tears, apologising to Justice Steven Rares for ”expressing emotion one perhaps shouldn’t express in court” and saying he had been ”incredibly distraught” by the ”amazingly expensive” legal proceedings.
”I love my wife very much, your honour,” Mr Slipper said. ”I am beside myself.”
He said he considered Mr Ashby a friend and was ”gobsmacked” when he received an email in April from the aide’s lawyers notifying him of the claim filed in the Federal Court.
”Mr Ashby never raised with me any level of concern,” he said. ”That was the first indication I had that Mr Ashby was in any way aggrieved.”
Mr Slipper denied he sexually harassed Mr Ashby, saying he was determined to execute his duties as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. ”There is no way I would want to sexually harass anyone because I’m focused on the job that I have got,” he said.
He conceded he may have said to Mr Ashby and another media adviser, Karen Doane, ”can I kiss you both” but it was because he was so happy with the results of a YouTube video they had produced on the use of the parliamentary mace.
Mr Slipper said he believed Mr Ashby had ”ingratiated himself” with himself and his wife, turning up at their house at ”unusual hours” and giving them gifts, including strawberries.
Earlier, Justice Rares continued to question Mr Ashby’s lawyers how their client’s alleged witnessing of Mr Slipper giving unsigned Cabcharges to a driver could amount to a breach of contract.
Mr Ashby’s originating application, filed in April, claimed Mr Slipper had exposed him to ”questionable conduct in relation to travel”, but he later abandoned those allegations.
The document also flagged Mr Ashby making a report to the Australian Federal Police.
Justice Rares questioned whether such an action could be an abuse of the court’s process.
”How do you get to a breach of contract, let alone reporting it to the police?” Justice Rares said.
The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions has yet to announce if it will lay criminal charges against Mr Slipper regarding the alleged misuse of Cabcharges.
Mr Ashby’s barrister, Michael Lee, SC, defended his instructing solicitor, Michael Harmer, from allegations that he breached professional conduct regulations.
”There is no doubt Mr Harmer discharged his responsibility to give him [Mr Ashby] warnings that the consequences that would follow if he made any allegation that was baseless,” Mr Lee said.
Mr Lee denied that Mr Ashby was ”a Manchurian candidate” sent in by political ”conspirators” to trigger Mr Slipper’s political demise after he defected from the Liberal National Party in November.
Justice Rares reserved his decision on Mr Slipper’s application to have the case dismissed as an abuse of process.
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