Dogged Abbott caught in slips
Peter Slipper ... sexual harassment case was thrown out. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
The real problem is not that Tony Abbott hasn't read the judgment in which the Federal Court threw out the sexual harassment case against Peter Slipper.
He has – as he says – been doing "important things" such as visiting the troops in Afghanistan and holding meetings in Britain.
The problem is that, having been fully briefed on the judgment's contents and ramifications, as Mr Abbott obviously has been, the Coalition leader still declares without any hesitation or caveat that Mal Brough – his candidate in the Queensland seat of Fisher – has acted "rightly at all times".
Tony Abbott ... hasn't read the Slipper judgment. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Was Mr Brough "acting rightly" when, as the Federal Court has found, he worked "in combination" with the former Slipper staffer James Ashby before he brought a sexual harassment case, which has now been thrown out as a politically motivated abuse of process?
Was Mr Brough "acting rightly" when he urged Mr Ashby to copy Mr Slipper's private diary so he could pass it on to a journalist?
Mr Brough has said he was simply helping a young man who came to him in distress and that it would have been a "poor reflection on my values as a human being" if he had done otherwise.
But the diary had nothing to do with the sexual harassment allegations, and Justice Steven Rares, in his judgment, rejected the idea that Mr Brough had been acting out of "pure altruism"in this case.
"Realistically, his preparedness to act (for Mr Ashby and another staffer) 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 and damaging him in the eyes of the electorate," the judgment says. It's unclear how or why Mr Abbott thinks that is "acting rightly".
Mr Abbott says he considers Mr Brough a friend and a valued colleague, but other senior Liberals who feel the same way about the former Howard government minister, can still see that there are legitimate questions about the way he acted in this case.
Mr Abbott's own parliamentary secretary, Senator Arthur Sinodinos, for example, said last week that Mr Brough was a bloke "with his heart in the right place" but conceded he "has got some questions to answer".
According to Senator Sinodinos, after listening to Mr Ashby's original complaint, Mr Brough "should have maybe distanced himself more" and that "getting involved in trying to facilitate" assistance for Mr Ashby had "created this perception that Mal has just cooked all of this up to knock off Slipper".
Indeed. And that's exactly why Mr Brough – who has made no comment since the judgment other than a brief written statement – has questions to answer before anyone can decide whether he "acted rightly" at all times.
And it's why Mr Abbott's "nothing to see here" response isn't sufficient – whether the Coalition leader has read the whole judgment or not.