Date: May 03 2012
Labor has accused the opposition of a cover-up after Liberal frontbencher Christopher Pyne changed his account of his contact with the staffer at the centre of sexual harassment allegations against Speaker Peter Slipper.
The move came as the Australian Federal Police confirmed it had begun a criminal investigation into further allegations by James Hunter Ashby that Mr Slipper misused publicly funded cab vouchers.
Mr Pyne had initially said his contact with Mr Ashby had been brief, but Fairfax reported the senior MP had spent almost two hours drinking and chatting with Mr Ashby in the Speaker's office a month before Mr Ashby lodged documents in the Federal Court in Sydney.
Mr Pyne clarified in a statement he had met Mr Ashby three times - twice in the Speaker's office and once when the staffer came by the Liberal MP's office.
After initially saying he had never requested Mr Ashby's phone number, Mr Pyne clarified yesterday that he had sought the number but had never spoken with Mr Ashby on the phone. Both Mr Pyne and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott have said they had no ''specific knowledge'' of the pending court action. Mr Abbott walked away from reporters in Sydney yesterday when a question was raised about the matter.
Labor frontbencher Craig Emerson said the use of the phrase ''specific knowledge'' by both Mr Pyne and Mr Abbott pointed to a cover-up.
''Mr Pyne does need to stand up … and explain why he seeks to evade and to conceal the true involvement of the Liberal Party in the preparation of this document by Mr Ashby,'' Dr Emerson said.
''There are very large missing parts to this story and the Australian people deserve to know the missing parts of the story.''
Mr Pyne said: ''What the Labor party is trying to do is create some fanciful political conspiracy which quite frankly is deeply offensive.
''Even if James Ashby had raised these matters with me or anyone else, well quite frankly he is within his rights to do so.''
Meanwhile, the AFP has begun a formal criminal investigation into allegations Mr Slipper misused taxi dockets.
The police probe is separate to the civil action brought by Mr Ashby. AAP
This material is subject to copyright and any unauthorised use, copying or mirroring is prohibited.
[ Canberra Times | Text-only index]