FORMER minister Mal Brough, now Liberal National candidate for Fisher, has no regrets about his conduct in the James Ashby affair, saying that if he had his time over, he would do the same again.
Speaking before the ABC's 7.30 went to air with allegations against Mr Ashby, Mr Brough insisted all that he had done was speak to a person — Mr Ashby — who claimed to have been sexually harassed by the Speaker, Peter Slipper.
It would have been "totally improper" for him to turn Mr Ashby away — it "would have been a poor reflection on my values as a human being".
"If asked to do what I did before, I would do it again," Mr Brough said.
Asked about court material revealing that Mr Ashby had passed on to him extracts of Mr Slipper's diary, Mr Brough said: "He sent me a text of three pages . . . I didn't forward them to anybody. I couldn't read them . . . He sent them to me because in the course of our first conversation he alleged criminal behaviour."
Court documents contained a message from Mr Brough to Mr Ashby asking: "Can that be emailed James it is hard to read." Mr Ashby replied that he had done so. Mr Brough said he had not asked for the diaries. "He never sent them to me again, and I never forwarded them to anybody."
Cabinet minister Craig Emerson said that if Mr Brough was claiming he was simply helping someone in need, "Why did he request Mr Slipper's diaries going back to 2009, which had nothing to do with Mr Ashby?"
Meanwhile, the prospect of Mr Brough's arrival in Liberal ranks after the election — he is considered certain to win the seat — is not being received with enthusiasm by some of the ambitious Coalition backbenchers who think he will be seeking to jump the queue for a frontbench spot.
While saying yesterday his only goal was to win the trust of the people of Fisher, Mr Brough went on: "Let's be honest about it: if we're going to move further down the track, I do have a lot of corporate knowledge, I do have a fair bit of experience across a number of portfolios."
Asked whether, if Mr Brough won Fisher and the Coalition won the election, he would go straight to the frontbench, Tony Abbott said he was not in the business of getting ahead of himself. "This is going to be a very tough election."
"I've got a very good frontbench now. I've got some outstanding people who are knocking on the door of the frontbench, but whether you're on the frontbench or off the frontbench, the important thing is to win the election."