Liberal Party frontbencher and Manager of Opposition Business Christopher Pyne protesting his ‘innocence’ in The Sydney Morning Herald on 2 March 2012:
Mr Pyne had gone to the Speaker's office to see Mr Slipper, but he was in the chamber. Mr Pyne was then invited for a drink with Mr Ashby and another staffer while he waited.
Mr Pyne said in a statement that he had met Mr Ashby three times, twice in the Speaker's office and ''once when he came to my office to collect wine being given to a former Coalition staffer as a farewell gift''.
He said that ''on no occasion did he raise the matters canvassed in the Federal Court'' and that he had never had any telephone contact with Mr Ashby.
Earlier yesterday, he said that, as manager of opposition business, he had more contact with the Speaker's office than other MPs, and it was not unusual for him to socialise with Mr Slipper's staff in his absence.
He said he was ''simply passing the time of day. We had a beer and a political discussion.'' But he said: ''I don't remember ever having asked for Mr Ashby's number.''
One voter writes a letter to the editor to the Brisbane Times which is published on 3 May 2012:
If Christopher Pyne was drinking with Mr Ashby in the Speaker's office while Parliament was in session, I can think of at least three questions that Mr Pyne should be asked: who was paying for the booze; was he (Mr Pyne) drinking while at work; and, isn't drinking during working hours a dismissable offence (''Pyne caught up in Slipper scandal'', May 2)? Over to you, Chris.
Now The Australian on 5 May 2012 reports that Slipper’s arch-rival became involved and Pyne finally outed for an email to Ashby he originally denied:
FORMER Liberal cabinet minister Mal Brough has admitted telling James Ashby to go to the police and take legal action over allegations of sexual harassment and misuse of taxi vouchers by Peter Slipper after a series of secret meetings with the political staffer earlier this year.
After a Gillard government campaign to link federal opposition MPs to the court action that led Mr Slipper to step down as Speaker, Mr Brough yesterday revealed he was briefly a confidant to Mr Ashby, even organising him legal advice, in the weeks before the adviser launched his explosive law suit against his then boss.
Mr Brough, who is standing for pre-selection in Mr Slipper's Queensland seat of Fisher at the next federal election, rejected speculation the Liberal National Party turncoat had been snared in a "honey trap" set by Mr Ashby with the backing of senior Coalition figures.
The one-time indigenous affairs minister in the Howard government, who lost his seat in the 2007 election landslide, revealed his role in Mr Ashby's court action as Labor stepped up its bid to tie Tony Abbott and Liberal frontbencher Christopher Pyne into setting up the Speaker.
In an exclusive interview, Mr Brough outlined the chain of events that led Mr Ashby to file his legal claim in relation to the sexual harassment he alleges to have suffered at Mr Slipper's hands, as well as the veteran MP's alleged misuse of taxi dockets, now the subject of an Australian Federal Police investigation…….
Mr Brough, who waged a two-year campaign in the LNP branch to oust Mr Slipper as candidate at the next election, said he had had little interaction with Mr Ashby before the "distressed" parliamentary adviser approached him. ….
Mr Abbott yesterday admitted that Mr Pyne, manager of opposition business, had sent an email to Mr Ashby after the pair had drinks in the Speaker's office on March 19. But Mr Abbott said Mr Pyne had not made further contact with Mr Ashby.
The Yass Tribune on went on to state on 5 May:
THE man who has accused Peter Slipper of sexual harassment and fraud, James Ashby, was undermining his boss's re-election even as he continued to work in the Speaker's office.
Mr Ashby was promoting one of Mr Slipper's potential rivals for the seat of Fisher in a series of YouTube videos while he was a media adviser to the Speaker……
The subject of two videos compiled by Mr Ashby is the Sunshine Coast businesswoman Peta Simpson who, with Mr Brough, plans to nominate as the Liberal National Party candidate for the seat of Fisher, now held by Mr Slipper.