Interview with Gary Hardgrave – 4BC Drive Program

Subject: Tony Abbott’s failure to read Federal Court judgment in Ashby case and continuing support of Mal Brough

GARY HARDGRAVE: Mark Dreyfus, MP, QC, federal member for Isaacs, speaking on behalf of the Government - we spoke to him last week. He joins us again. Well, should Tony Abbott have read this case, Mark Dreyfus?

MARK DREYFUS: Absolutely. This is a very serious judgment against Mal Brough. And Tony Abbott's been caught out, yet again, being lazy and sloppy and not doing his homework. It's not the first time. I'd say it's a pattern of laziness. He doesn't seem to like to read things. He's had a week to read this. It's the findings of one of Australia's most senior judges, who has slammed the unethical behaviour of Mal Brough. And you'd think a leader worth his salt would be showing a little more concern and take some action. And what's of real concern is that he's gone out to defend Mal Brough who's broken every rule, gone well beyond the bounds of decent behaviour, especially for someone - as I said to you last week - who's been in public life. Tony Abbott needs to read this judgment and he needs to disendorse Mal Brough. And he actually, while he's about it, should come clean and answer some questions about his own involvement.

GARY HARDGRAVE: Does disendorsing Mal Brough fix up the problem for Tony Abbott?

MARK DREYFUS: No. He's still got to come clean on what he knew and what was the involvement of his senior staff; what was the involvement of his front bench in this attempt to bring down the Government; certainly to bring down the Speaker.  And I just make this point. Tony Abbott said on Friday, at another press conference he gave in London, that Mr Brough acted rightly at all times. Well, journalists and others are absolutely right to be asking was Mr Brough acting rightly when, as the Federal Court judge found, he worked in combination with James Ashby to bring a sexual harassment case which has now been thrown out as a politically motivated abuse of process?  And was he acting rightly when he urged Mr Ashby to copy Mr Slipper's private diaries so that he could pass it on to a journalist? These diaries were stolen, so is that Mr Brough acting rightly at all times? And if Tony Abbott had read the judgment that's what he would have read. His endorsed candidate - who he should disendorse - had encouraged Mr Ashby to steal the Speaker's private diary.

GARY HARDGRAVE: Well, last week, when we did speak there were some suggestions that, maybe, part of the Electoral Act could become a problem for Mr Brough. Has the Government done any work on that?

MARK DREYFUS: The Government's still examining this judgment which has a great deal in it that amounts to, at the very least, unethical and serious misconduct. And what further action is taken will depend on that examination. But we already know ample from what the judge has found to see that Mr Abbott and Mr Brough would do anything to grab power. That's what lies at the heart of this case, and it's backfired on them.

GARY HARDGRAVE: But if the Government is still considering what it's about to do next, surely Tony Abbott has time to read this judgment?

MARK DREYFUS: He should have read it. He's had a week to read it. And I'm encouraging - perhaps he can read it on the plane as he's coming back and then be in a position to answer some questions about it. What he shouldn't have done is go out there and say, falsely, that Mr Brough had acted openly and transparently. Now he's been called on that one because Mr Brough, initially, attempted to deny any contact with Mr Ashby. But he then had to 'fess up that he'd had some. He hasn't acted openly and transparently, and he certainly hasn't acted, as Tony Abbott would have it, rightly at all times. What we've got here is Tony Abbott, who was quite happy to use the megaphone to spread false allegations against Peter Slipper, who's now in hiding; hiding behind weasel words, hiding behind words like he didn't have any "specific knowledge" - that's what he wants to say - and, extraordinarily, seeking to defend Mal Brough when he hadn't read the judgment.

GARY HARDGRAVE: Well, he has said that he was confident that Mal Brough had acted rightly at all times, as you said. I mean our correspondent, Andrew, just a listener to this radio station - I don't think Andrew's protesting any greater expertise other than just being a good voter, a good person. He wants to know why Tony Abbott has to actually read the report. Why can't one of his shadow ministers? Surely, someone could have advised Tony Abbott better.

MARK DREYFUS: He should have been advised better, I agree. He shouldn't be out there saying Mr Brough has acted rightly at all times when a senior Federal Court judge has found, first, that Mal Brough acted in combination with one of Peter Slipper's employees to bring a false sexual harassment case, which has now been thrown out because it was just a politically motivated abuse of process, and he shouldn't have been saying Mr Brough acted rightly when - as the judge finds - Mr Brough urged Mr Ashby to steal the diaries.

GARY HARDGRAVE:   Okay. Well, Mark Dreyfus, let's just get to the nub of this. And I think you've explained yourself well, but I just put the question to you: what do you think Tony Abbott should do next? And what should occur over, say, the next few weeks?

MARK DREYFUS: He should immediately disendorse Mal Brough. He's not fit to be a member of the Australian Parliament. He doesn't have the excuse that he didn't know what he was doing. He actually sat as a member of the Parliament. He knows the importance of the Parliament. He knows the importance of the Speaker, and he should be disendorsed. So that's action number one.       

Action number two - when Mr Abbott returns to Australia he should hold a press conference and answer all of the questions that the journalists are wanting to put to him. He should not keep ducking. He should not keep hiding behind weasel words. He should tell us what he knew and when and what was the involvement of the Liberal front bench in this matter.

GARY HARDGRAVE: Alright. Mark Dreyfus, thanks for your time.

MARK DREYFUS: Thank you very much.

GARY HARDGRAVE: Mark Dreyfus, federal Labor member for Isaacs, speaking on behalf of the Government.