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Brough admits to meeting James Ashby

Former Howard minister Mal Brough changes his story about meeting Peter Slipper's personal aide James Ashby.

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THE former Howard government minister Mal Brough appears to have changed his story about what he knew of claims of sexual harassment and misuse of travel entitlements by Peter Slipper.

Mr Brough confirmed yesterday he had met the former aide James Ashby three times and had sought legal advice on his behalf in relation to his claims against his then boss, Mr Slipper.

However, Mr Brough was quoted last weekend as saying any suggestion he had known of Mr Ashby's legal action before it was launched was ''nonsense''.

SUNDAY AGE 19/6/08 EXTRA  Mal Brough, former Aboriginal Affairs minister pictured in Melbourne.  For profile piece by Peter Wilmoth.  Pic by Rebecca Hallas SPECIAL EXTRA

Changed his story ... Mal Brough has admitted that he had in fact met James Ashby for legal advice in relation to claims against Mr Slipper. Photo: Rebecca Hallas

Mr Brough was engaged in a brutal campaign for preselection by the Liberal National Party for Mr Slipper's seat of Fisher before Mr Slipper resigned his party membership and became an independent MP last year.

Mr Brough is now almost certain to gain preselection, which would clear the way for his return to federal Parliament.

Mr Brough's revelations came as the federal government demanded the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, and the frontbencher Christopher Pyne provide a detailed account of any dealings they had with Mr Ashby before he filed his Federal Court action against Mr Slipper last month.

A spokesman for Mr Abbott said yesterday neither the Opposition Leader nor anyone in his office knew Mr Brough had met Mr Ashby.

The Foreign Affairs Minister, Bob Carr, tweeted: ''This Ashby seems more rehearsed than a kabuki actor.''