Slipper’s lawyers seek to delay court’s next move

House of Representatives Speaker Peter Slipper.LAWYERS for the Speaker of Federal Parliament, Peter Slipper, will ask the Federal Court today to postpone an application to strike out parts of the sexual harassment claim bought by a former member of his staff, James Ashby.

A directions hearing is scheduled before Justice Steven Rares this morning. It is expected lawyers for both sides will argue the merits of the federal government’s application to force Mr Ashby to serve an ”unredacted” copy of his April 23 affidavit.

Mr Slipper also wants the court’s leave to issue subpoenas, although the identities of those he wishes to subpoena are confidential.

Mr Ashby, Mr Slipper’s former media adviser, is suing the government and Mr Slipper under the Fair Work Act and for breach of contract.

Mr Ashby accuses Mr Slipper of ”unwelcome sexual advances, unwelcome sexual comments and unwelcome suggestions of a sexual nature”.

He originally claimed Mr Slipper misused Cabcharge vouchers. However he later abandoned the taxi fraud allegations.

Mr Ashby claims loss and damage for the ”offence, humiliation, distress, anxiety and stress (including physical symptoms) and dislocation to life”.

The Commonwealth is being sued as it could be held responsible for the Speaker’s conduct because Mr Ashby was employed by Mr Slipper on its behalf.

Mr Slipper, a former Liberal MP turned independent, has stepped aside as Speaker to defend himself against Mr Ashby’s claims.

On Tuesday, Mr Slipper asked the court to throw out the case on the grounds Mr Ashby’s lawyers had engaged in an abuse of process in their handling of the case.

In that interlocutory application, Mr Slipper said if judgment was not given against Mr Ashby, the action should be permanently stayed.

Mr Slipper’s solicitor, Josh Bornstein, had foreshadowed the application in a feisty directions hearing on May 18, in which he said the allegations of sexual harassment and misuse of Cabcharges had been ”an exercise in ambush” and ”character assassination”.

During that hearing, Mr Bornstein said some court documents had been released to the media ”in a publicity blitz” before they were served on Mr Slipper and his legal team.

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