Subject: James Ashby allegations
MARIUS BENSON: Mark Dreyfus, this appears to be a case of he says, he says. On the one hand James Ashby says that Christopher Pyne offered me inducements to go public with claims, on the other hand the Education Minister says no such thing took place. How do you resolve that?
MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I think it is clear from 60 Minutes that Liberal MPs knew a lot more about Mr Ashby than they have admitted to, they have never been forthcoming. I think Mr Abbott needs to come clean about his own involvement in what he knew, and in particular Christopher Pyne has serious questions to answer.
BENSON: Well, let’s start at the top. What’s the evidence that Tony Abbott was involved?
DREYFUS: The weasel words that the Prime Minister used during public statements some time back, when he said that he had no particular knowledge. That’s the sort of thing one says when you in fact have some knowledge and he needs to be asked, and he needs to answer – well, just what was his involvement in this matter.
BENSON: And what about Christopher Pyne, the Education Minister? Has he not simply made a statement, an unequivocal statement of innocence?
DREYFUS: It’s not a matter of saying “I’m innocent”. How often did he meet Mr Ashby? When did he meet Mr Ashby? At what point, what inducements did he offer Mr Ashby? Did he offer inducements to Mr Ashby?
None of those questions have been answered, and I’d like to see Christopher Pyne actually submitting to a proper interview in which he is asked those questions and he gives non-evasive answers.
BENSON: How should this be resolved, is there a legal process that should be undertaken?
DREYFUS: I think we’ve had a legal process, which Mr Ashby decided freely not to go on with and having done huge damage, of course, by bringing the proceeding - and that you have to imagine was what Liberal Party MPs wanted to occur. They got what they wanted.
It’s clear though that Mr Ashby did not act alone. He didn’t dream up all of this. And it’s clear that there’s been involvement of Liberal MPs. Exactly what that involvement was, when they got involved, what they said, we still don’t know.
BENSON: Is it worth pursuing now?
DREYFUS: I think it’s always worth pursuing this kind of grubby conduct by members of the Federal Parliament. It’s worth pursuing because we need to know just what they did. It’s an extraordinary event that occurred here, this attack on the Speaker of the House of Representatives and it’s clear that a number of Liberal MPs were involved – in particular Mal Brough, Christopher Pyne, Wyatt Roy and Tony Abbott, to some extent.
I don’t know, it’s for him to answer what extent he was involved in this, but they should be asked these questions and they should answer. Australians are entitled to know the way in which their MPs behave.
BENSON: A question has been raised about how reliable James Ashby himself is; because it's pointed out that there are inconsistencies in what he said on TV last night and what he previously told the court. Having told the court he was not offered inducements, on TV last night he pointed to inducements.
DREYFUS: These Liberal MPs who are now saying various things about James Ashby seem to have been quite happy to use him back in 2011 and 2012. They’re now happy to spit him out.
BENSON: Mark Dreyfus, I’ll leave it there. Thanks very much.
DREYFUS: Thanks Marius.