A familiar AFP smell over Slipper and #Ashby

Update 15 July, 2013


FINANCE STATEMENT ON SLIPPER SUMMONS: Pyne wrong on Lateline
In the light of a media report this week which contradicted my report that someone other than the Finance Department referred the 2010 travel claim by Slipper to the AFP which resulted in his prosecution I emailed the Finance Department for clarification.This is their reply:
UNCLASSIFIEDHi Margo,No, the Department of Finance and Deregulation did not refer this matter to the Australian Federal Police.

The matter was separately referred to the Australian Federal Police by a third party.

Regards,

Tameena | Communications and Public Affairs

*

On Friday’s  Lateline, Mr Pyne stated that the Department of Finance had referred Mr Slipper to the police for the alleged 2010 travel rort which resulted in his prosecution for $900

EMMA ALBERICI: Still on Mr Slipper, there appears to have been a disparity in treatment between Peter Slipper and Tony Abbott with regards to misclaimed expenses. Is it clear to you why Mr Abbott was able to simply pay back his $9,400 that he mistakenly claimed and yet Mr Slipper is being pursued through the courts for $900, which is less than 10 times that?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well I think the point is there that the department makes those decisions about which mistakes should be pursued and which ones shouldn’t. I mean, sometimes there is an inadvertent error and over the years people have been asked to pay that back. It’s happened on hundreds of occasions where someone’s overpaid $180 or $9,000 and the department follows them up. In the case of Mr Slipper, the department has made a decision, which is a matter for them not for me, that there might be some intent involved rather than a mistaken error of judgment and that’s probably why they’re pursuing him in the courts, but that’s a matter that they’ll explain in the courts.

From where did Mr Pyne get his information? It flatly contradicts written statements to Mr Slipper by Finance and published in this piece.

On 16 November 2012, Mr Slipper wrote:

‘I understand the department may have some queries about my travel in Canberra suburbs on 20 January, 19 April 2010 and 27 June 2010 (the issue he was later charged with in January). I seek advice on any outstanding concerns by the department in relation to travel on the dates noted above or any other use of entitlement.’

The Finance Department’s Mr David Tune replied on 17 December 2012:

‘Prior to the AFP investigation, Finance had no concerns with your travel paid under entitlement on those days… To the extent that Finance has received any further information about travel on those days, it would only be from assistance provided in response to AFP queries during the course of the AFP’s investigation…’

So, as detailed this piece, the Finance Department’s Minchin Protocol, under which it asked Mr Abbott to repay $9,400 charged to the taxpayer for his book tour without further consequences, did not apply in the Slipper case because the 2010 travel claims were referred directly to police by someone outside Finance.

by Margo Kingston

4 July 2013

Who asked the Australian Federal Police to investigate Peter Slipper’s 2010 travel claims?

It’s an intriguing little question, because Slipper has been singled out for prosecution and the public has not been told why. Here’s the background.

James Ashby included cab-charge rorts in his now notorious writ against his employer lodged on 20 April last year and simultaneously released to News Ltd to ensure maximum adverse publicity. The next day he referred those allegations to the AFP, which accepted the referral on 30 April.

The allegations were baseless, a part of Ashby’s shock and awe plan to force the resignation of Slipper, and he dropped them in his subsequent statement of claim. In fact there is no evidence that Slipper rorted any entitlement during his time as Speaker.

However the AFP then delved back into his past as a Liberal Party MP, and finally charged him in January this year with an alleged 2010 travel rort, an incident which occurred shortly before Tony Abbott guaranteed that his travel entitlements were in order. (I note in passing that Mr Abbott has never been asked about the matter, and that Murdoch papers have falsely reported that the summons related to the 2012 matter alleged by Ashby).

I reported on 10 January that Slipper had been charged in contravention of the Government’s Minchin Protocol, which provided that if irregularities in travel claims are uncovered, the MP is given the opportunity to repay with no further action taken. In EXCLUSIVE: How Finance defied protocol to crucify Slipper, I wrote:

OH, THE IRONY of ironies.

James Ashby’s false claims that Peter Slipper had rorted his taxi cab entitlements while Federal Parliamentary Speaker in 2011-12 have triggered a summons on three cab overpayments in 2010.

The history of Ashby’s allegations is as follows: two claims of travel rorts were dropped  – after garnering maximum negative publicity for Slipper – while his last claim of sexual harassment was thrown out of the Federal Court in December as an abuse of process.

The AFP (Australian Federal Police) quickly dismissed Ashby’s (withdrawn) cab rort allegations, finding them baseless.

However, they began investigating Slipper’s cab claims, going back a while, and finally came up with the three from 2010, which they summonsed him on this week

Now, there is the Finance Department Protocol followed when an Allegation is Received of Alleged Misuse of Entitlement by a Member or Senator (the so-called Minchin Protocol, because the then Howard Government finance minister Nick Minchin decreed it) which says that when a politician claims too much for minor expenses (such as cab fares) then they just quietly repay the excess and all is forgiven.

From the Protocol:

Internal Audit

When an allegation of or other event which suggests misuse of entitlement occurs, the Department undertakes an internal investigation to ascertain whether the allegations are credible (rather than being only malicious or vexatious).

• If the matter is relatively minor, the Member or Senator will be invited to provide an explanation to the Department.

Sources have revealed exclusively to Independent Australia that, in accordance with this Protocol, when the 2010 overpayment (a mere $900 or so) was discovered several months ago, Peter Slipper immediately offered to repay the excess.

But sources say Finance refused to allow him to do this. Instead, they said that — because the AFP was interested, they would not follow the protocol.

Why did they make such an exception in Slipper’s case?

Many politicians and their staffers claim too much for their cab fares. There is an example below involving Coalition MP Sophie Mirabella.

All those pollies repay — and they don’t get referred to the police.

So, Finance has made an exception for Slipper, despite the fact that the AFP investigation began because of a false and malicious allegation by Ashby.

For simple fairness, Finance should now dump the protocol and refer all politicians who over claim for cabs – and who cannot show this was a simple error and not a try on – to police.

If Finance does not do this, they will have opened a powerful loophole in the Protocol, which invites another Ashby to destroy another political rival with false claims contained in a malicious court application.

In a follow-up story, Finance told AAP that the Minchin Protocol did not apply in this case because it was referred directly to the AFP, that is, was not raised by Finance:

When asked on Thursday by AAP to confirm whether Mr Slipper had offered to repay the money, the AFP declined to comment and referred the matter to the finance department.

A finance department spokesman said: “The department does not publicly comment on interactions between it and individual senators and members in relation to their entitlements.”

However, the Minchin protocol did not apply where an allegation was referred directly to the AFP, the spokesman said.

So who referred it? Surely not Ashby, as he wasn’t working for Slipper in 2010. So who?

Documents obtained by me this week and reproduced below show that Peter Slipper did offer to repay any overpayments to Finance last year, and that Finance advised it had no knowledge of any overpayments with regard to the 2010 matter. In a letter dated 9 November 2012, it said that apart from a matter not relevant to the 2010 claim, ‘Finance is not currently aware of any mistakes or oversights in relation to your use of entitlements’.

Again I ask, who referred this matter direct to the AFP? I note that in response to my FOI application to Finance on the matter, it refused to release 7 documents which might give the public the answer, stating that they were relevant to ‘a current prosecution’.

Here’s another question. Why did the AFP and the Director of Public Prosecutions commit to shelling out serious money to prosecute Slipper for $900 when the costs bill will be enormous, with seven AFP officer and more than 30 witnesses to be called?

Don’t expect a straight answer from the DPP – he gobbledegooked his way through questioning in a recent Senate Estimates Committee hearing.

And here is the biggest, most troubling, question of all. Why did the AFP spend so much time and energy investigating Slipper’s entitlements and prosecuting over a small sum which could have been quickly repaid, but is resolutely sitting on its hands over a referral to it of alleged criminal activities surrounding the Ashby scandal?

In the wake of the explosive Rares judgement, Labor MP Graham Perrett sent a detailed brief to the AFP on 21 December requesting investigation into possible criminal offences by Ashby, Karen Doane, Mal Brough, Julie Bishop, Christopher Pyne and Queensland LNP Minister Mark McCardle.

The AFP replied that it would not even decide whether or not to investigate until Ashby’s appeal was handed down, ignoring the fact that the appeal is about technicalities of law about whether Justice Rares should have thrown out the case as abuse of process, not about whether criminal acts, including stealing Slipper’s diary, had been committed. Convenient, yes? Avoids action till after the election, yes?

In March Perrett tried again with another brief adding Eric Abetz to his list, and again, the AFP decided to sit on its hands. The Full Federal Court has yet to hand down its judgement on whether Ashby will be given leave to appeal. The trail goes cold.

I haven’t smelled something this rotten since the AFP omitted from its brief to the DPP crucial evidence against Peter Reith’s son over the 2000 Telecard scandal, and the then DPP refused to prosecute father or son in the face of strong evidence of breaches of the law (see the No Fibs Telecard archive and the Telecard Timeline).

The AFP is compromised when it comes to investigating politicians. Always has been, always will be. Federal politics needs an independent body to investigate alleged political corruption, as in ICAC in NSW and the CMC in Queensland. I argued this case in my 2004 book Not Happy, John: Defending our democracy. Reckon Rudd or Abbott will get the job done? Nope.

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Why the people demand – and pay for – an #Ashby investigation and No Fibs #Ashby archive

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Noelle Kebby says:

    An excellent article Margo. Surely in light on the complicit media in the expose on the stalking of PM Julia Gillard, it’s now time for someone in the Press Gallery to show some moral fortitude and take this on board. There must be someone???


  2. What Press Gallery, are they not “secret” about their membership?

    Nice one Margo…

  3. joy cooper says:

    The stench of this entire affair is decidedly putrid. The covering up & withholding of information is reminiscent of the Soviet era. Without a doubt, the people, concerned with the concealment of the facts of this matter, could give the North Koreans lessons in how to keep truth from reaching the light of day.

    Please continue with your investigations of this matter, Margo. There doesn’t seem to be any investigative journalists of your calibre left. We need you.

  4. Graham Arnold says:

    Is there any connection/relationship between the CDPP and Tony A? Just asking…..


  5. Great work Margo, it appears the Feds and LNP are in charge and the Govt the serfs.


  6. well done Margo. I am glad someone is writing this.


  7. I dream of a wad of very pertinent documents being found in a bus-shelter, because any officers with concerns about the internal politics and methods of the AFP, must surely be very frightened about blowing any whistles.


  8. This is incredible. How can the media not be all over this. You are right – it definitely stinks – and thank you very much for continuing to pursue it. Thank goodness someone is! Here’s hoping all will be publicly brought to light very soon.


  9. I wonder if Jason Clare has asked Perrett to pull his head in, He has carriage of the portfolio along with Dreyfus as AG?


  10. If I had the money I would gladley give it to Mr Slipper to hold every single corrupt person accountable for this gross attack for political reasons. This stinks of TONY ABBOTT. When will this man be made accountable for all his dealing and slandering of good people. For god sake will someone have the guts to take Mr Abbott on or is he above the law as it seems. Im an Australian and I am disgusted by the Police in this matter, Mr Ashby and Mr Abbott. Disgraceful.

    • Cliff Jones says:

      I agree completely – Tony “Teflon” Abbott – just keeps denying all knowledge of all his dirty little secrets – he will have a high price to pay to Uncle Rupert if he actually wins the election – we can only hope this never happens!!!!


  11. I’ve got $10 says Ashby ends up working for Mal Brough if Brough wins the seat. Whenever you’re looking for someone to blame, look for the person most likely to benefit. I believe government ministers are paid pretty well these days and Mr Brough has some experience. I’m sure Abbott would be keen to reward his loyal muckrakers.


  12. Good article Margo. I’m in no doubt that the delay in prosecuting this trivial matter is to bring it closer to the date of the election, to create as much harm to the Labor government as possible. The discrepancies between the handling of Tony Abbott’s case and Peter Slipper’s (which amounts to a tenth of Abbott’s) is alarming. Coupled with the fact that Peter Reith had a $50,000 debt to repay (which he did, ever so reluctantly) and didn’t face court, we have a right to know what is going on. We’ll never find out, if it’s left up to the Murdoch media. Evil triumphs when good men and women say nothing…

  13. Peter Wotton says:

    Has the $50,000 abuse of Peter Reith’s government phone card been forgotten? Given that he apparently did pay back that enormous sum and lost (?) his cabinet post, he apparently accepted that he had somehow slipped up. No even a suggestion of prosecution.

  14. Geoffrey says:

    This from an ex high ranking police officer friend of mine….
    The AFP are stacked with rejects from State Police forces. Those who do not make the grade into state police go AFP.
    It’s common groupthink among police that the AFP are nothing more than glorified security guards looking after Parliament House. Most have failed the entry requirements for the State Police Forces.
    We can now add “corrupt” to the “rejects” monika.


  15. Brough & Ashby – deep in blatant corruption – including this malicious political attack on Slipper. Brough/Ashby are unfit for public office. The costs of these attacks- by members of the Liberal Party who are serial offenders- and the structural and sustained abuse of power is huge and demoralizing. Ethical legal processes must be instigated to address Brough and Ashby misconduct and demeaning- damage to Slipper and to tax payers and australian public.


  16. Brough wouldn’t touch him with a barge pole now. Ashby will be Mr Nofriends.


  17. On last night’s Lateline, Mr Pyne stated that the Department of Finance had referred Mr Slipper to the police for the alleged 2010 travel rort which resulted in his prosecution for $900 http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2013/s3802373.htm

    EMMA ALBERICI: Still on Mr Slipper, there appears to have been a disparity in treatment between Peter Slipper and Tony Abbott with regards to misclaimed expenses. Is it clear to you why Mr Abbott was able to simply pay back his $9,400 that he mistakenly claimed and yet Mr Slipper is being pursued through the courts for $900, which is less than 10 times that?

    CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well I think the point is there that the department makes those decisions about which mistakes should be pursued and which ones shouldn’t. I mean, sometimes there is an inadvertent error and over the years people have been asked to pay that back. It’s happened on hundreds of occasions where someone’s overpaid $180 or $9,000 and the department follows them up. In the case of Mr Slipper, the department has made a decision, which is a matter for them not for me, that there might be some intent involved rather than a mistaken error of judgment and that’s probably why they’re pursuing him in the courts, but that’s a matter that they’ll explain in the courts.

    From where did Mr Pyne get his information? It flatly contradicts written statements to Mr Slipper by Finance and published in this piece.

    On 16 November 2012, Mr Slipper wrote:

    ‘I understand the department may have some queries about my travel in Canberra suburbs on 20 January, 19 April 2010 and 27 June 2010 (the issue he was later charged with in January). I seek advice on any outstanding concerns by the department in relation to travel on the dates noted above or any other use of entitlement.’

    The Finance Department’s Mr David Tune replied on 17 December 2012 that:http://www.scribd.com/mobile/doc/151278733

    ‘Prior to the AFP investigation, Finance had no concerns with your travel paid under entitlement on those days… To the extent that Finance has received any further information about travel on those days, it would only be from assistance provided in response to AFP queries during the course of the AFP’s investigation…’

    My understanding is therefore, as detailed this piece, that the Finance Department’s Minchin Protocol, under which it asked Mr Abbott to repay $9,400 charged to the taxpayer for his book tour without further consequences, did not apply in the Slipper case because the 2010 travel claims were referred directly to police by someone outside Finance.

    I have sought clarification from Finance by email to check the correctness of my reporting.

    Finance has refused to provide its correspondence with the AFP under my Minchin Protocol FOI on the grounds it relates to a current prosecution. I will request an internal review to allow disclosure of those parts of the correspondence which reveal the person who referred the matter to the AFP because that question is a matter of public importance.


  18. Since when did Chrissy Pyne know anything though?

    • Kaye Lee says:

      It is the third time this week Mr Pyne has been forced to alter his account of his dealings with Mr Ashby after he said at the weekend his contact with Mr Slipper’s former staffer had been brief.

      “I walk into the reception in the Speaker’s office with Speaker’s staffers there,” Mr Pyne said on Sunday. “I’ve said hello to all of them, so I passed the time of day with all of them.”

      After the National Times revealed on Tuesday that on the night of March 19 Mr Pyne spent almost two hours drinking and chatting with Mr Ashby and another Slipper staffer in the Speaker’s office, the Liberal frontbencher defended the meeting, saying: “I have nothing to hide.”

      Mr Slipper was not present for the majority of the evening, returning late after an adjournment debate in the chamber. Mr Pyne left the office shortly after Mr Slipper’s arrival.

      Asked if he had ever sought Mr Ashby’s contact details, Mr Pyne replied: “I don’t remember ever having asked for Mr Ashby’s number.”

      But Mr Pyne again altered his recollection of the March 19 meeting on Wednesday when the existence of Mr Pyne’s email – and a subsequent text message – was revealed by Fairfax papers.

      “I don’t remember asking for those, but by the same token I could well have,” he told ABC Radio yesterday when asked if he had sent the email.

      The email added instant fuel to claims made by Labor that Mr Pyne and others in the Coalition had prior knowledge of Mr Ashby’s sexual harassment claim lodged against Mr Slipper, which has forced Mr Slipper to stand down indefinitely from the chair.

      Mr Pyne this week confirmed he had met Mr Ashby three times – including a meeting at which he personally handed over a wine bottle signed by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott intended as a farewell gift for a Slipper staffer.

      It is understood Mr Pyne’s meeting with Mr Ashby to hand over the wine – initially delivered to Mr Abbott’s office for signing – was only three days after the late-night meeting in the Speaker’s office.

      Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/pyne-concedes-he-may-have-sent-email-20120504-1y2oh.html#ixzz2ZBKlR8Ho


  19. I am confused as to why the Police were involved in the first place, as to how they have any legal position to do what they did. I mean, if you were working for a company, you claimed for expenses that weren’t, you either re-pay or get fired or in the worse case scenario be taken to court on behalf of the company. Since when are the Liberals in power and what right have they to carry out such a clandestine act without first utilising the Minchin protocol or informing the government of what it knows? Something has to be done to enforce the corrct procedures before court action is taken. Furthermore, the publix taxes are being wasted on such a pittance, it should only be in a small claims court. This applies to anyone in any party as far as I am concerned. It also riles me that right wing bigots continue to believe that it is okay to burn Slipper, Thomson and Etteridge but not Abbott. It just puts these rightuous voters into bogan mentality, just like Christians and Muslims, can’t think outside of indoctrination.


    • Nick, the Federal police were given a complaint and so are obliged to investigate. The complaint most likely came from Brough or Ashby himself but with the full backing of the party leadership. The idea was to create a minor constitutional crisis and force an election allowing Mal Brough to slither into the seat on the back of negative publicity surrounding Slipper. The hypocrisy of the complaint is astounding given Abbott rorted $9000 to promote his book and has been using taxpayers money to reimburse travel to charity events.


  20. This whole affair is typical of a skewed and corrupt system which favours privilege and power over justice and which allows the coercion of police for political purposes.

    It reflects the myth of egalitarianism that exists in relation to Australia and the general corruption that is inherent in an economic system that places a major disjunct between capital, those who produce and the benefits of profit. The metrics of celebrity and wealth that now define value of a person inour society are the very factors that create the context and circumstance for the disregard of ethical or principled behaviour.

    Margo’s work reads to me as evidence of a serious miscarriage of justice almost certainly perpetrated or political purposes. By the same token, it suggests to me that Peter Slipper *was* guilty of conscious misuse of entitlements, but only in a context where such misuse is apparently endemic. It also appears that his misuse – in terms of level – has been exceeded many times over by that of others, including our Prime Minister, Tony Abbott. The prosecution of Peter Slipper is therefore completely inappropriate or the non-prosecution of all other offenders is completely inappropriate.

    If nothing else, a fundamental principle of a just society – regardless of proscribed activities or the penalties for committing them – should be that the application of the law is consistent across all members of society. Clearly that has not been the case here. Not only has the rule of law not been consistently applied in relation to Peter Slipper and his colleagues but the very introduction of the “Minchin Protocol” was of itself a breach of that fundamental principle. What is worse is that the very people who are entrusted with caring for our society, allocating our funds and resources and ensuring our safety and civil and human rights, have condoned and colluded in a “protool” which basically allowed them, at will, to defraud the public and betray their office and, at worst, simply have to repay the debt if caught out.

    The whole debacle is sad for Peter Slipper, certainly, but then again he needn’t have abused his entitlements. The greater sadness, however, and the greater injustice is that we have a corrupt political system and one which encourages exploitation by many, if not the majority, of parliamentarians who supposedly represent us and who should provide a scrupulous ethical model for the general population.

    What I would like to know is, given that this type of corruption and the practice of lying and deceit that covers it up so ubiquitous, what chance is there of real change and have we actually crossed the line and begun to gather momentum down the slippery slope towards dictatorship on which Tony Abbott & Co seem so intent?

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