26 November 2015
by Latika Bourke

Clive Palmer revives explosive claims against Mal Brough over James Ashby affair

Mal Brough and Clive Palmer at Parliament House in Canberra on Tuesday.

Mal Brough is under renewed pressure to explain his role in the torrid Peter Slipper affair, with Labor escalating its attack and Clive Palmer reviving sensational claims the Special Minister of State asked him to fund a $200,000 legal case to "destroy" his political rival.

Mr Palmer was a long-time member of and major political donor to the Liberal National Party before he quit in protest and formed the Palmer United Party.

Under parliamentary privilege, Mr Palmer told the House of Representatives on Wednesday that Mr Brough asked him in April 2012 to fund Mr Ashby's legal case, which he said to he understood to be worth around $200,000.

Mr Brough won the Queensland seat of Fisher from Mr Slipper at the 2013 election.

"The current member for Fisher at the meeting requested I fund the legal costs of Mr Ashby and while no exact figure was discussed with the member for Fisher, who later ran against Mr Slipper in Fisher, I understood the cost would be at least $200,000," Mr Palmer said.

"The member for Fisher stated to me that we needed to destroy Peter Slipper."

"I refused the request from the member for Fisher, I did not think it was appropriate then and I don't think it is now that a person funds another person's legal action, designed to cause a third party's demise for political reasons."

It is not the first time Mr Palmer has made the claim and Mr Brough has in the past denied asking Mr Palmer to help bring down Mr Slipper.

But the case is back in the spotlight after the Australian Federal Police recently raided the homes of Mr Brough and James Ashby. Mr Ashby was a former political aide to Mr Slipper and accused the former speaker of sexual harassment. Police are investigating whether any criminal offence occurred when Mr Brough said in a media interview that he urged Mr Ashby to make copies of Mr Slipper's diary, which were leaked to the media.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull elevated the Member for Fisher from the backbench to the senior ministry after toppling Tony Abbott in September. Mr Brough was one of Mr Turnbull's key backers.

Comment is being sought from Mr Brough.

Mr Palmer spoke in support of a Labor-instigated Matter of Public Importance debate after question time.

Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus also used the debate to question Mr Turnbull's judgment in appointing Mr Brough as Special Minister of State.

"Australians are meant to accept that a man who is by his own admission under investigation by the Australian Federal Police for criminal wrongdoing is fit to set standards for propriety in public office,' Mr Dreyfus said.

"And this is not just about the member for Fisher, the man who we can now see would do anything to advance his own interests, to realise his ambitions and to return to the Parliament.

"No, this is about the judgment of the man who has fulfilled those ambitions – the new Prime Minister.

"This is about the judgment of a prime minister who appoints as his minister for government integrity a discredited figure over whom loom allegations of serious misconduct.

"The judgment of a Prime Minister who stands by the member for Fisher even after he has been raided by the Australian Federal Police, even as the Australian Federal Police are considering charges against him."