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Thursday, 26 November 2015
Page: 9147

Senator LUDWIG (Queensland) (15:48): What is clear in the debate we are now having is that there are questions to be answered by this government and by Mr Brough in the other place as to what involvement he has or has not had in respect of the matter.

I know and understand that the statement Mr Brough has made has been quoted at length but it remains to be seen as to what actions were done, what his involvement was in what has come to be known as the Ashby affair. What is required, particularly for the important that role Mr Brough plays as the Special Minister of State, in holding a ministerial portfolio, is more than a statement in response to the issue raised. We see that with the question in the other House by Mr Dreyfus, who put the question very bluntly to the Special Minister of State. He said:

How does the minister respond to the following words contained in an AFP search warrant, which I quote in part:

Between 23 and March and 13 April 2012, Malcolm Thomas Brough counselled and procured James Hunter to access restricted data, namely the former Speaker of the House of Representatives … official diary, contrary to Section 478.1 of the Criminal Code 1995 …

The answer given by Mr Brough was:

I refer the member for Isaacs to my statement of the 18th. I have nothing further to add, and what you are referring to are of course allegations.

What is important in this place is, if there are allegations raised, that they are dispelled. Mr Brough has all of the opportunity to go into the House to make a full explanation of the circumstances. As always, I am not making any criminal allegation against Mr Brough—nor would I, in this place. It is not up to me to do that. What is important though for Mr Brough is to make a fulsome statement about what his involvement is in the Ashby affair so that we do not jump to conclusions and try to make assertions that could be considered in this place.

It is clearly a case where Mr Brough should come into the parliament and make a full explanation of what his involvement is or was not in respect of the Ashby affair, because we only have snippets from his own statements, which are reported in the paper. I do not know whether they are accurate statements of what he did or did not say. I can only go on what has been reported.

In an interview last year, the journalist Liz Hayes asked Mr Brough:

Did you ask James Ashby to procure copies of Peter Slipper's diary for you?

To which Mr Brough responded:

Yes, I did.

This information is also contained, as I indicated, in the Australian Federal Police search warrant.

I cannot say—and nor would I—that that is a clear admission of any criminal activity. It would be wrong of me to say that. The Leader of the Government in the Senate has said, you could not make that statement at all—to which I agree. As I understand it, Mr Brough is offering to cooperate with the Federal Police in that investigation—and so he should. We should all do that. It is important to uphold the principle in this place and, if he is cooperating with the Australian Federal Police in relation to an AFP investigation, he should—as has been done many times before—stand aside while the AFP conduct their investigation. I am not saying that he should; what I am saying is that that opportunity is there for him to do that. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.