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Question so difficult Coalition can't hear

Date

Chief Political Correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald

View more articles from Lenore Taylor

ANALYSIS

Not proposed for reinstatement ... Peter Slipper.

Not proposed for reinstatement ... Peter Slipper.

IT'S a classic way to avoid answering a question - pretend you've been asked a different one.

When Coalition frontbenchers were asked about the ramifications of the scathing federal court judgment for their former ministerial colleague and candidate in next year's election, Mal Brough, they answered as if they had been asked something else entirely.

Here's an example.

Reporter: ''The government has called on the LNP to disendorse [Mr Brough's] candidature for the seat of Fisher. Where do you stand on that?''

Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey: ''Look, the government is hyperventilating about this … let me say this, if the Labor Party believe that Peter Slipper is such a man of integrity and honesty then they should put him up for Speaker again.''

But the government isn't proposing to reinstate Mr Slipper, he has already paid a price for his horrible text messages by being forced to resign, and no one is defending the text messages that became public as a result of the case, in fact in his judgment Justice Rares described them as ''vile''.

But Justice Rares also said of Mr Brough that he acted ''in combination'' with Mr Ashby and a second Slipper staffer ''to cause Mr Slipper as much political and public damage as they could inflict upon him'' in a bid to advance Mr Brough's political interests and those of the LNP.

Mr Brough has said it ''would have been a poor reflection on my values as a human being'' if he had not talked to Mr Ashby about his sexual harassment claim or helped him get legal advice.

But Justice Rares said Mr Brough was unlikely to have been offering to assist Mr Slipper's staffer Ms Karen Doane and Mr Ashby in seeing Mr Russell, QC, for advice or looking for new careers ''out of pure altruism''.

''Realistically, his preparedness to act for them was created and fed by their willingness to act against Mr Slipper's interests and assisting Mr Brough's and the LNP's interests in destabilising Mr Slipper's position as Speaker and damaging him in the eyes of his electorate.''

And the case Mr Ashby brought as a result of that ''combination'' with Mr Brough has been found to be ''scandalous'' and an abuse of judicial process for political purposes.

It's hard to reconcile that part of the judgment with Mr Brough's statement; ''I reiterate that I have at all times acted appropriately in relation to this matter''.

That's why Mr Brough, and the Coalition should answer the real question.

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