Tony Abbott

"The Coalition leader says he considers Mr Brough a friend." Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

TONY ABBOTT looked silly saying he has been doing too many ''important things'' to read the Federal Court judgment that threw out the sexual harassment case against Peter Slipper.

But the bigger problem is that having been fully briefed on the judgment, the Coalition leader still declares without hesitation or caveat that Mal Brough - his chosen candidate - has acted ''rightly at all times''.

Was Brough ''acting rightly'' when, as the Federal Court has found, he worked ''in combination'' with former Slipper staffer James Ashby before he brought a sexual harassment case, which has now been thrown out as a politically motivated abuse of process?

Was Brough ''acting rightly'' when he urged Ashby to copy Slipper's private diary so he could pass it to a journalist?

Brough has said he was simply helping the young man, and it would have been a ''poor reflection on my values as a human being'' to do otherwise.

But the diary had nothing to do with the sexual harassment allegations, and Justice Steven Rares rejected the idea that Brough had been acting out of ''pure altruism'' in the case.

''Realistically, his preparedness to act [for Ashby and another staffer] was created and fed by their willingness to act against Mr Slipper's interests and assisting Mr Brough's and the LNP's interests in destabilising Mr Slipper's position and damaging him in the eyes of the electorate,'' the judgment says. It is unclear how Abbott thinks that is ''acting rightly''.

The Coalition leader says he considers Brough a friend, but other senior Liberals, who are also friends with the former Howard minister, can see there are legitimate questions about the way he acted.

Abbott's own parliamentary secretary, Arthur Sinodinos, for example, conceded Brough ''has some questions to answer''.

According to Sinodinos, after listening to Ashby's original complaint, Brough ''should have maybe distanced himself more'' and ''getting involved'' had ''created this perception Mal has just cooked all of this up to knock off Slipper''.

That's exactly why Brough - who was not given an opportunity to put his side of events to the court before the judgment was handed down, and who has made no comment since the judgment other than issuing a brief written statement - has questions to answer before anyone can decide whether he ''acted rightly''.

And it is why Abbott's ''busy doing important things'' response is insufficient - whether the Coalition leader has read the whole judgment or not.

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