Accused of “grooming” Peter Slipper, not the other way around … James Ashby.THE man who introduced Peter Slipper to his former aide and accuser James Ashby was told by the stood-aside Speaker he believed he was being spied on.
The Herald has obtained 200 pages of court documents detailing every SMS sent between Mr Slipper and Mr Ashby, who is suing his former employer for sexual harassment over a nine-month period.
The text messages, which reveal a once close and ribald relationship between the politician and the former staffer, were filed by Mr Ashby’s legal team in the Federal Court on Friday but have not yet been made public.
Ryan Reynolds, who briefly worked in Mr Slipper’s office in 2011, took Mr Ashby with him to a cocktail function at Mr Slipper’s home in Buderim, on the Sunshine Coast, about the middle of last year, several months before the independent MP hired Mr Ashby as his media adviser in December.
The new evidence tendered to court by Mr Ashby’s defence team reveals that Mr Reynolds – Mr Ashby’s one-time school friend and former lover – visited Canberra in November last year and met Mr Slipper.
Mr Reynolds then advised Mr Ashby by text that Mr Slipper had asked him if he was gay and said he thought he was visiting him ”to spy on him” in order to feed information to the local media. Mr Slipper also inquired if he and Mr Ashby were ”still together”.
”Lol that’s Peter. He is very intrigued by the whole gay thing,” Mr Ashby replied in a text message after Mr Reynolds recounted the conversation. ”Wtf? That’s very bizarre to think about the spy thing!!!”
As part of his defence to Mr Ashby’s sexual harassment claim, Mr Slipper told the court last week that he believed Mr Ashby ”was placed” in his office or ”contrived a situation where he was able to come to my office” as part of an elaborate political conspiracy driven by the Liberal National Party as payback because he left the LNP to accept the Speaker’s position.
But Mr Ashby’s barrister, Michael Lee, SC, tendered to court 200 pages of documents as part of his client’s defence against claims by Mr Slipper that the aide was ”grooming” the Speaker, not the other way around.
The 200 pages of new evidence also reveal Mr Slipper asked his aide in December, ”Want to go to kings cross/taylor sq in syd?”
Mr Ashby told a friend he had been advised against taking the position in the Speaker’s office by the wife of Queensland cabinet minister Mark McArdle, Judy McArdle, who had worked in Mr Slipper’s office. In October last year, Mr Ashby suggested Mr Slipper aim for the speakership.
Mr Slipper appeared surprised at the suggestion, sending Mr Ashby a SMS that read: ”Range of options open … Where did you get the idea I could become Speaker?”
The documents also reveal Mr Slipper distrusted deeply the local media in his electorate as he believed his LNP rivals – including Mal Brough, who is the party’s preselected candidate in Mr Slipper’s seat of Fisher – were involved in a campaign to smear him.
The affidavit includes every text message – notated with the words ”read” or ”sent” accompanied by explanatory remarks by Mr Ashby’s legal team.
The hearing continues.
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