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Slipper travel investigated as Pyne backpedals

Date

Jessica Wright

Denial ... Peter Slipper.

Denial ... Peter Slipper. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

LABOR has accused the Coalition of a cover-up after Liberal frontbencher Christopher Pyne altered his account over his contact with the staffer at the centre of sexual harassment allegations against the Speaker, Peter Slipper.

Political mudslinging raged as the Australian Federal Police confirmed it had begun a criminal investigation into Mr Slipper for the misuse of taxpayer-funded taxi dockets.

A Labor minister, Craig Emerson, said the public should know what involvement the Liberal Party had in encouraging and preparing the case against Mr Slipper by James Hunter Ashby.

''There are very large missing parts to this story and the Australian people deserve to know the missing parts of the story,'' he said.

''There is obviously a cover-up going on.''

Despite Mr Pyne saying on Tuesday he could not remember asking for Mr Ashby's contact details after a two-hour late night meeting - which occurred a month before Mr Ashby lodged legal action against Mr Slipper claiming sexual harassment - it was revealed yesterday he had sought the number and email address of Mr Ashby but had never spoken with him on the phone.

He made the clarification after the Herald revealed Mr Pyne requested the details by email and text message minutes after the meeting ended.

Mr Pyne said yesterday he did not remember whether he had requested the details but admitted he ''could well have''.

He denied they had discussed the alleged sexual harassment but said it would not have been a problem if they did.

''Even if James Ashby had raised these matters with me or anyone else, well quite frankly he is within his rights to do so,'' he said.

The Treasurer, Wayne Swan, said the matter resembled the Godwin Grech fake email affair.

"The Liberal Party has been out there raising the ante in this matter. I want to know, and I want to see what they have been up to when it comes to this matter and its filings in the court,'' he said.

Meanwhile, the federal police confirmed a formal investigation into Mr Slipper for alleged travel rorts, and Mr Ashby confirmed he had been interviewed.

Last week Mr Slipper released photocopies of the 13 Cabcharge dockets in a bid to refute the allegations that he rorted his travel entitlements by handing over signed blank vouchers to drivers. He said the allegations were a fabrication and was supported by the leader of the house, Anthony Albanese.

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