Thursday, 20 December 2012 09:21
Mining magnate Clive Palmer (pictured) has denied any prior knowledge of a politically damaging court case brought against former federal speaker Peter Slipper.
But Mr Palmer does admit two weeks before the sexual harassment claims were taken to the Federal Court in April he discussed Mal Brough's candidacy for Mr Slipper's Queensland seat of Fisher with the former Howard government minister and shadow treasurer Joe Hockey.
His comments came after Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said he had not read the judgment, which said Mr Brough helped Slipper staffer James Ashby with his case and dismissed the court action as an abuse of process.
Mr Slipper on Wednesday applied to the court for Mr Ashby to pay all of his costs and also took the unusual step of making a costs application against his accuser's legal team, Harmers Workplace Lawyers.
This means Mr Ashby and Harmers could face a costs bill in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Federal Court judge Steven Rares last week found Mr Ashby acted "in combination" with another staffer, Karen Doane, and Mr Brough to willingly act against Mr Slipper and advance Mr Brough's political interests as well as those of the Queensland Liberal National Party.
Mr Palmer is mentioned in the judgment seven times, in relation to Ms Doane's request Mr Brough help her secure a job at the billionaire's Sunshine Coast resort after the dust settled on the court action.
Mr Palmer told reporters in Brisbane on Wednesday he met with Mr Brough and Mr Hockey at his resort at Easter, two weeks before Mr Ashby lodged his court documents on 21 April.
But he said he only learned of the claim through the subsequent media reports.
Mr Palmer said Mr Brough had called the meeting to discuss his potential Liberal candidacy for the federal seat of Fisher, which Mr Slipper holds.
"At no time did I encourage anybody to pursue Peter Slipper for anything," Mr Palmer said.
"I made it quite clear to all members of the LNP, as far as I was concerned, Peter Slipper was innocent of any crime and should not be pursued."
Mr Abbott said he was confident Mr Brough had "acted rightly at all times".
Asked why he hadn't yet read the judgment, the opposition leader told reporters in London: "Because I am doing very important things for the people of Australia here in this country right now."
"I look forward to having Mal as a colleague of mine again," he said.
Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said Mr Abbott's admission he had not read the court judgment was "staggering".
The matter will be heard by the court in Sydney on Friday.
A spokesman for Mr Ashby declined to comment.
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