Police to examine Ashby's phone records
AUSTRALIAN Federal Police will examine two discs which contain the phone records of James Ashby from around the time a copy of former speaker Peter Slipper's diary was leaked to a journalist at the Courier Mail.
Federal Court orders handed down this morning by Justice Geoffrey Flick state the information was downloaded from Mr Ashby's phone by a tech-expert and was intended to be used to back-up his sworn statement in an earlier case - when he was suing the Australian Government for breaching his contract and failing to create a safe working environment.
"The original mobile phone from which (the tech expert) downloaded the information is no longer available, meaning that the police cannot simply seek access to that phone and undertake their own forensic analysis," Justice Flick wrote.
As such he granted an order freeing the Commonwealth Government from its legal obligations to keep the affidavit in confidence and effectively cleared the way for the phone records to be handed over to the police.
"There is a legitimate public interest in permitting the Australian Federal Police access to materials that may assist its investigation into the alleged unlawful disclosure of the official diary of a former Speaker of the House of Representatives," Justice Flick wrote in his judgment.
Outgoing Sunshine Coast MP Mal Brough admitted to asking Mr Ashby - when he was Mr Slipper's staffer - to take his boss's diary on 60 Minutes in 2014.
However, he later distanced himself from the statement on the floor of Parliament in Canberra.
"My recollection of the interview was that the question was put to me in a somewhat disjointed manner, and I answered the question without clarifying precisely what part of the question I was responding to," he said today.
"This is confirmed by the tape by 60 Minutes and that was the reason for my answer yesterday.
"Mr Speaker, I have taken the opportunity to review the tape and transcript and apologise to the House if my statement yesterday unwittingly added to the confusion rather than clarifying the matter."
For his part Mr Ashby, who last year was reportedly working for Pauline Hanson as a pilot, told the ABC the phone records would reveal he and Mr Brough have done nothing wrong.
"I think it'll wrap this investigation up quite quickly now that the federal police have been given access to the phone records, because it will clearly show that there was nothing terrible that Mal Brough or myself or anyone else that was investigated did," told ABC online.
Fisher MP Mal Brough announced in February that he would not be re-contesting his seat and a new candidate has since been pre-selected.
Mr Brough declined to comment on the matter.
Under Section 70 of the Federal Crimes Act it is an offence for a Commonwealth employee to leak a confidential document they have access to.