No reason to proceed with Slipper case, Commonwealth says

THE resumption today of the sexual harassment case against Peter Slipper will include argument that the matter should not proceed because the Speaker's accuser, James Ashby, has agreed to settle with his employer, the Commonwealth.

In reporting to the court that a settlement has been agreed, Commonwealth solicitors will argue that as Mr Ashby has agreed to settle with it, the first respondent, there should be no other case to pursue against Mr Slipper, the second respondent.

The Commonwealth, not Mr Slipper, is Mr Ashby's employer.

Mr Slipper is unlikely to be at the court today and he has yet to hire new lawyers after recently parting company with the Melbourne-based solicitor Josh Bornstein, of the firm Maurice Blackburn.

The Herald understands Mr Ashby's legal team will seek to introduce more text messages sent between the former staffer and Mr Slipper.

Some of the texts are potentially damaging to Mr Slipper and concern his own sexuality.

Mr Slipper has been stood aside as the Speaker of the House of Representatives since early May after Mr Ashby, who had only worked for him a few months, lodged a sexual harassment claim against him.

Last week, the Commonwealth maintained that Mr Ashby's case was vexatious but, nonetheless, agreed to a $50,000 settlement.

It dropped its contention that Mr Ashby's case was an abuse of process and Mr Ashby agreed to drop his action against the Commonwealth.

However, the agreement has yet to be finalised in the court and the Commonwealth solicitors will make their push to have the whole case abandoned or even pushed to mediation before the settlement is finalised.

The Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, maintained yesterday that the reason the Commonwealth chose to settle was to end the ''lawyers' picnic'' which had cost the Commonwealth more than $700,000 in legal fees thus far.

If, however, the hearing goes ahead, Mr Ashby's legal team will tell the court why the sexual harassment suit against Mr Slipper should not be thrown out as an abuse of process before it gets to trial.

If Mr Slipper has not found a new legal team and the case proceeds, he may represent himself.

Before Maurice Blackburn ceased to act for Mr Slipper, an application was filed with the court to set aside an earlier decision that had been made by Justice Steven Rares to award some costs against him.

The costs order was made after Mr Slipper formally withdrew the allegation that Mr Ashby ''unlawfully'' sent extracts of his diary to a political rival, Mal Brough and a journalist, Steve Lewis.

At the time, Justice Rares criticised Mr Slipper's lawyers for changing their case after the evidence had closed, saying Mr Ashby had foreshadowed using the defence yet Mr Slipper continued to pursue the allegation.

Follow the National Times on Twitter

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop