Regrets over frivolous texts but Mal stays mum on Ashby

Politicians boarded the public train to Brisbane to experience first hand the thoughts and feelings of users. Candidate for Fisher Mal Brough boards the train.
Politicians boarded the public train to Brisbane to experience first hand the thoughts and feelings of users. Candidate for Fisher Mal Brough boards the train. john mccutcheon

WE take a seat on a metal bench in the busy concourse of Central Station in Brisbane.

It is the first interview Mal Brough has given since being roundly condemned by a federal court judge in December for his involvement in the James Ashby affair.

So far, Mr Brough has been more than accommodating as we travelled on the train from Landsborough to the city.

He has mingled with commuters, politely listened to their concerns and raised issues he felt people should consider.

He has also been funny, impersonating a Queensland Rail voiceover, as if making the announcement people were waiting for about the train delay.

Six years out of parliament, he has not lost his political charisma.

But hanging over his head are the questions about his invovlement in the James Ashby saga that everyone has been trying to get him to answer.

The topic comes up innocently as we discuss the benefits of Tweeting, Facebooking and the dangers of sending a message that be on record forever.

"You send a frivolous message and in a couple of years time it could come back to haunt you," Mr Brough says.

I say, "Yes, we know too well how that has happened".

"The funny thing was the five texts (concerning his involvement with Ashby) were still there because I didn't delete them. I wouldn't have known how," he says casually.

It provides an opening to the Ashby saga and the Australian Federal Police investigation into whether he has breached three sections of the Criminal Code and Crimes Act.

He suggests there is "nothing to talk about".

"It's run its course," he says.

I bring up the series of questions a journalist from Australians For Honest Politics, among others, have been trying to get him to answer, which I whip out of my handbag.

"I have a list of questions for you from a concerned journalist," I say. "I've seen those questions," he says.

And then begins what will become his party line. "I've answered everything in relation to James Ashby."

I ask why he has not responded to requests for interviews. He suggests no one has asked.

"I am available on my mobile," he says.

This is true. My colleagues and I had no problems reaching him to arrange the train trip.

We leave further discussions till we get off the train. A crowded compartment is not the place.

Mr Brough is gracious, agreeing to talk privately at the metal bench at Central Station. We talk more about rail and then switch to a topic his body language shows he would rather avoid.

I ask if we can talk about Ashby.

"What's your question?" he says.

I say he has seen the questions sent in by the AFHP, so why won't he answer them?

"Peter Slipper is the ... has got to answer to the court on 16th or the 15th," he says, stumbling over his words until he finds his favourite line.

"The Ashby matter is still under appeal with Mr Slipper. I've said everything I have to say; there is nothing more I need to add.''

I ask whether he thinks it is something that should be addressed with an election campaign coming up.

"I have addressed, in full, my involvement with the matter and there is nothing further that I can add," he says.

I ask whether this (his addressing the matter) was before or after the judge specifically pointed fingers at him.

"The judge never pointed any…" He stops and then continues again. "I'm not going to go with the judge, the matter is before the appeal, I have nothing further to add."

I ask whether he will talk about it after the appeal, but it's a waste of time.

"The matter is before appeal, there is nothing further to add," he says again.

I ask if he thinks it could affect his chances of being elected.

"The matter is before appeal, I have nothing further to add," he repeats.

I say, "Come on", he has to accept people's concern about this issue.

He says, "That's it" and then adds the line once more: "The matter before appeal nothing further to add".

It is obvious Mr Brough is hoping his personality, his track record and the Coast love for the LNP will be enough to get him through.

Topics:  editors picks james ashby mal brough peter slipper

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