Ashby journalist 'spurred by story'
News Limited journalist Steve Lewis. Photo: Ben Rushton
NEWS Limited journalist Steve Lewis ''was motivated by the opportunity to obtain newsworthy stories'' - not by the political interests and intrigues of his sources, Federal Court Justice Steven Rares has concluded in the Ashby matter.
The Federal Court on Wednesday tossed out the harassment case brought by political staffer James Ashby against his boss and former House of Representatives Speaker Peter Slipper.
In the process, Justice Rares reflected on the protagonists involved in the bitterly contested proceedings, including Mr Lewis, a senior correspondent with the News Limited tabloids, who broke the story that Mr Ashby had launched court action against Mr Slipper.
In reaching his conclusion, Justice Rares appears to have weighed up whether Mr Lewis was in effect an undeclared player in a high-stakes political saga or whether he was just caught up in the inveterate newshounding associated with investigative reporting.
While his judgment is not uncritical of Mr Lewis, Justice Rares argues the senior newspaper correspondent (and his publishers) acted as any reporter would have done in pursuit of a story with profound consequences.
Justice Rares concludes that a text message sent by Mr Lewis to Mr Ashby declaring ''we will get him'' related to the journalist and his source ''getting'' Mr Slipper. But while noting active collaboration between Mr Lewis and his sources, the support of News Limited in covering some of Mr Ashby's expenses - the judge notes there is ''nothing unusual in a symbiotic relationship between members of the media … and persons involved in politics.''