No talks over Slipper court action: Pyne
Federal opposition frontbencher Christopher Pyne says a staffer of Peter Slipper did not tell him about legal action against the Speaker before the lawsuit was lodged in court.
Fairfax Media says Mr Pyne spent almost two hours drinking and chatting with Slipper adviser James Hunter Ashby a month before Mr Ashby lodged documents accusing Mr Slipper of sexual harassment and misusing cab vouchers.
Mr Pyne had met with Mr Ashby and another Slipper staffer in the Speaker's office - while the Speaker was not present - in Parliament House on the evening of March 19, and he later phoned the office to get Mr Ashby's mobile number, the report said.
Mr Pyne said in a statement on Tuesday he was in "regular contact" with the Speaker's office, in his role as manager of opposition business.
"In the course of my work as manager of opposition business I have had cause to meet Mr James Ashby three times - twice in the Speaker's office and once when he came to my office to collect wine being given to a former coalition staffer as a farewell gift," Mr Pyne said.
"On no occasion did he raise the matters canvassed in the Federal Court action that have subsequently come to light with me."
Mr Pyne said he had no telephone contact with Mr Ashby "at any time".
Treasurer Wayne Swan told reporters in Canberra Mr Pyne and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott had many questions to answer.
"The same standard that is being applied to Mr Slipper ought to be applied to the opposition," Mr Swan said.
Mr Slipper has stood aside as Speaker until all the claims against him are resolved.
Mr Pyne said there was a "fanciful" attempt by Labor to suggest a political conspiracy.
Mr Ashby's claim was filed in the Federal Court in Sydney on Friday, April 20.
Asked on the ABC TV's 7.30 program last week if there was evidence to suggest Mr Ashby had received help from the coalition in preparing his court claim, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said: "Not that I'm aware of."
Comment was being sought from Mr Ashby's lawyers and public relations agent, and Mr Slipper.
Brought to you by