FEDERAL Opposition leader Tony Abbott says he has been 'too busy' to read a damning court judgment which criticises the role of Mal Brough in the Peter Slipper affair.
Speaking on ABC radio from London a week after the judgment was handed down, Mr Abbott again backed Mr Brough for the Sunshine Coast seat of Fisher despite the findings of the court.
Mr Abbott said he was 'confident he (Mr Brough) has acted rightly at all times'.
Justice Rares found that Mr Brough had conspired with Mr Slipper's accusers, James Ashby and media adviser Karen Doane to bring Mr Slipper down and 'advance the interests of the LNP and Mr Brough'.
Mr Ashby launched a sexual harassment case against Mr Slipper with hundreds of lewd text messages released as part of the court process.
Details of the case were leaked to News Ltd journalist Steve Lewis while Mr Slipper was overseas, ensuring front page coverage around the country before the case had been considered in court.
Mr Abbott said he had been too busy to read the Federal Court findings for himself.
"Look, I haven't read it," he told ABC radio.
Asked why, he said: : "Because I am doing very important things for the people of Australia here in this country right now."
Mr Abbott has maintained he had "no specific knowledge" of the allegations against Mr Slipper before they were made public.
He told the ABC he was keen to once again work with Mr Brough, who was the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in the Howard Government before losing his Caboolture-based seat of Longman.
"Mal is a friend of a mine, Mal was a colleague of mine, I look forward to having Mal as a colleague of mine again," he said.
On the Sunshine Coast, there have been growing rumblings within LNP ranks over Mr Brough's actions in the Slipper case.
There was a strong list of candidates who ran against him for pre-selection with some suggesting the contest should be re-opened.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard is maintaining pressure on Mr Abbott on the issue, questioning his role in the affair.
He has also been accused of being hypocritical in condemning Ms Gillard for anointing Mr Slipper as Speaker when the LNP failed to take action against the long-serving Liberal for years, despite their knowledge of his excessive travel expenditure and unacceptable behaviour.
Labor has called for Mr Brough to step down as the candidate or be stood down.
WHAT THE JUDGE SAID ON THE MEDIA AND MAL BROUGH
I am also satisfied that Mr Ashby and (former media adviser Karen) Doane by about 29 March 2012 were in a combination with Mr Brough to cause Mr Slipper as much political and public damage as they could inflict on him.
They believed and hoped that (Daily Telegraph's Steve) Lewis would publish unfavourable stories about Mr Slipper concerning whatever they could help Mr Lewis find in relation to Mr Slipper's use of his travel entitlements in the areas of Mr Lewis' curiosity.
That is why each of Mr Ashby, Ms Doane and Mr Brough were anxious to provide Mr Lewis with the diary entries he sought. It is not clear whether Mr Brough had passed on to Mr Lewis Mr Ashby's foreshadowed complaint of sexual harassment in late March 2012.
They also believed that Mr Lewis, and the media generally, would report on any legal proceeding against Mr Slipper in which Mr Ashby alleged sexual harassment.
At this time, Mr Ashby and Ms Doane saw Mr Brough as their means of obtaining favour from the LNP in seeking new employment.
It was obvious that once what Mr Ashby was then planning became public, he and Ms Doane could no longer work as members of Mr Slipper's personal staff.
The relationship of trust and confidence (if it still subsisted) between Mr Slipper and the two staff members would have been destroyed by their acts of calculated disloyalty.
The timing of Mr Ashby's and Ms Doane's actions immediately after 24 March 2012 is also significant.
They believed that new job opportunities would open up to them after the LNP won government in Queensland on the weekend of 24-25 March 2012.
If Mr Ashby could discredit Mr Slipper politically by helping Mr Brough and using Mr Lewis, he perceived that would gain favour for him and Ms Doane in the eyes of the LNP.
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