Abbott, Slipper and Brough
Michelle Grattan and Lenore Taylor discuss Tony Abbott's admission he hasn't read the judgement in the Peter Slipper case.PT2M31S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2bn2k 620 349 December 19, 2012
TONY Abbott has scored a notable own goal by admitting that he's been vigorously defending Mal Brough without having read the court judgment in the Ashby sexual harassment case that strongly criticises the former minister.
Mr Abbott's carelessness also feeds into the government line that he is not good on detail.
To explain his failure by saying he'd been doing ''very important things for the people of Australia'' while in Britain is akin to the kid saying he neglected his homework because the dog needed exercising.
Tony Abbott. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Mr Abbott's many engagements included a speech, participation in the Britain-Australia-Israel dialogue, and quite a few meetings. But his description was hyperbolic.
The judgment, concluding that Mr Brough joined with James Ashby to politically damage then Speaker Peter Slipper, came out last week. It was long but not complicated - in fact, quite a racy read. There was plenty of time for Mr Abbott to go through it.
Mr Abbott was always going to stand by Mr Brough, who is the Liberal National party candidate in Mr Slipper's seat of Fisher. But to declare on Wednesday that, ''I am confident that he has acted rightly at all times'' (to say nothing of earlier comments about Brough's transparency), without scrutinising what Justice Steven Rares said, smacks of contempt for the public.
From Mr Abbott's point of view, it's another occasion when he has unnecessarily made himself the issue. The government - which is trying to claim Mr Abbott and other Coalition frontbenchers knew more than they admit about the Ashby affair - quickly had ministers out to attack him.
''He'll say anything and do anything but he won't look at the available evidence or the facts,'' said acting Prime Minister Wayne Swan.
Attorney-General Nicola Roxon declared: ''He demanded Mr Slipper's scalp. I think it's astounding that Mr Abbott hasn't taken the time to read this decision''
Mr Abbott's carelessness also feeds into the government line that he is not good on detail, a view shared by some on his own side. Previously he got himself tied in knots about whether he had or had not read a statement from BHP Billiton. Also, he hadn't read a key transcript relating to the AWU affair. In general, he's seen as a man of the broad sweep rather than fine print.
In his latest comments, Mr Abbott continued to use his formula that he had no ''specific'' knowledge of the Ashby case until he read it in the newspaper, referring to ''rumours'' around Mr Slipper.
Mining magnate Clive Palmer said on Wednesday he could not recall if the Ashby case was discussed when he met Mr Brough and shadow treasurer Joe Hockey in July. ''Joe Hockey was just a guest at our resort and … Mal Brough came to see me because he was seeking endorsement for the seat of Fisher.''