James Ashby can consider himself a bit hard done by this morning. Last year after a federal court judge ruled he had launched a sexual harassment claim to destroy his former boss Peter Slipper and the claim was thrown out, Ashby was treated by many as a no-good figure of fun. Not by Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, though. The Tele, which had featured the original accusation against the one-time Speaker of the House of Representatives Slipper prominently on its early news pages, consigned a report on Ashby’s case being thrown out to page 17.
With a wonderful sense of timing the full bench of the Federal Court chose yesterday to rule on an appeal that overturned the previous ruling and the Ashby case against Slipper can now proceed. The decision just happened to follow the publication that morning of a tut-tutting finding by the Press Council that the Tele was quite unfair in consigning the story on Ashby’s loss in court to page 17.
So what to do with the news of the man’s vindication by the full bench? Why, put in on page 17 of course.
Humorous but perhaps a bit unfair and not just on James Ashby. Journalist Steve Lewis, now retired from the News stable, saw his reputation sullied a little in the original judgment. The last par of the Tele’s report this morning thus deserves a wider circulation than page 17 provides:
The court was also complimentary of former Daily Telegraph journalist Steve Lewis, rejecting the trial judge’s conclusion he “was lying” in his evidence and saying it was wrong to assume a “We will get him” text message Lewis sent Mr Ashby referred to the harassment claims, because Lewis had been investigating Mr Slipper’s travel entitlements for some time.