Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sinking the slipper in: there’s something decidedly queer about ex-Townsvillean James Ashby’s claims of sexual harassment against Slippery Pete Slipper – and The 'Pie's risks all his credibility (small risk) gives tips on the council poll.

Did you know that Slipper accuser James Ashby is a former Townsville gadabout? You do now. There certainly are a few unasked questions about the former Townsville business manager and radio staffer’s private court bid for compo dollars. And The Magpie asks those questions.

Pickering has his needle-sharp say in that area.

On the local government front, The ‘Pie rolls out his electoral crystal ball, and makes a few rash predictions about winners and losers.

And a broader but brief look at April 25, Anzac Day.

All here in this special mid-week nest at

It may come as a bit of surprise – apparently it will to The Bulletin, which has been desperately flapping around to play with the big boys and find a worthwhile Townsville connection in the Slipper Affair – that the Speaker’s accuser was well known in Townsville and media business circles … and in the pages of the Bulletin. Don’t worry, since The Australian has beaten them to it (as well as The Magpie) you few Astonisher readers left will be regaled with pix and tidbits when they suddenly discover what they have in their archives.

It seems the paper has forgotten it, but, yup, James Hunter Ashby, who alleges Slippery Pete Slipper wanted to slip him one, walked and talked among us here in the ‘ville for a while.

But perhaps a bit of a history should be pulled together here to put things in perspective.

Let’s start about 10 years ago in Newcastle, NSW, where ‘Jimmy’ (his call sign) Ashby had a drive time radio show. For reasons known only to himself, he decided to ring a rival DJ on air, and make foul-mouthed threats to bash him.

That little escapade – which he later described as a ‘silly joke’ - cost him a $2000 fine, and his job.

He soon afterwards came north to Townsville to manage the printing firm Newa Image.  The Bulletin wrote several stories quoting him, the last as recently as April last year, when his company became a financial victim of the spectacular collapse of ISP start-up Rawnet (RortNet in some circles). Another story which raised an eyebrow reported a break-in and equipment theft at the printery.

Ashby worked for HOT FM and may have had something to do with Zinc FM, in the late noughties. Colleagues and others who knew him were refreshingly candid in their free character readings of him.

One of the more restrained comments was that Ashby was a difficult person to handle, a fact that Peter Slipper has apparently found out. Another described him as ‘catty’ and generally not liked by his work mates, and a third used the descriptive but hardly original phrase ‘as camp as a row of tents’ and that he spent many an evening of – shall we say – gay abandon down at the Sovereign Hotel on Flinders Street West.   

Now, right here, The ‘Pie should point out that he mentions Ashby’s sexuality - which is quite open about - only because it may have a crucial bearing on subsequent events.

The next swerve in our lad’s career was to take up the media liaison position with a Sunshine Coast 
strawberry farm, where soon after his appointment, there were shock-horror stories of poison found in the farm’s water tanks. Just as well they had a media person on hand, as every strawberry farm should have but often doesn't.

And that’s where he met Peter Slipper. An article in the Australian (25//2012) gives the history in more detail, and how he became a Slipper family friend and was subsequently invited to join the Slipper staff.

The Magpie’s sticky-beaking has alerted him to a distinct piscine odour about little Jimmy’s claims of clammy hands and texted sweet nothings from his boss, who himself is a grasping King of the Claim Form. 

(For Slipper’s millionaire lifestyle on the rorting front – for that is all it can be from the ordinary taxpayer’s point of view – read this excellent but appalling background report from The Power Index. Those with high blood pressure or a tendency towards depression are strongly advised not to read it).

But returning to Mr Ashby, the unasked questions are: why would a man in Slipper’s position hire a political novice with a somewhat erratic background as an adviser? And did Ashby sense or in fact clearly know of Slipper’s apparent inclination to kick with both feet, and see this as the main chance ? Did he carefully plan to turn on his friend and mentor with evidence he quietly went about gathering until he had enough to try for a payday at the taxpayer’s expense? Did he have access to Slipper’s mobile when his (tor)mentor was poncing around in frilly-necked gowns in the Speakers Chair?

And why did Ashby adamantly refuse to get the police involved in the alleged sexual harassment side of things?

Keeping in mind that Ashby was a member of the LNP, (he resigned when Slipper also bailed out) here is the biggest question of all.

Could it have been foreseen that if Slipper falls and is forced to leave parliament in disgrace over his expenses rorts, this could possibly lead to a successful vote of no confidence in the government? And that, by logical extension, would mean an election, and the almost certain installation of Prime Minister Tony Abbott in The Lodge? (Shudder)

None of this speculation is likely to affect Mr Ashby’s private venture for a little personal taxpayer loot under Workplace Health (and so on, blah blah) provisions. But he is hardly some dewy-eyed ingenue with downy-haired cheeks, a bashful smile with lowered eyes,  and an innocent blushing way about him/her. Anything but, The ‘Pie opines.  

There are plenty of investigations underway and we await with interest to see if young Mr Ashby suddenly finds the boot - or slipper if you will – on the other foot.

And a final footnote to all this.

It is greatly in the government’s interest to get Slipper back into the chair, and he and others on the front bench have been confident it will all be looked into and cleared up by the time parliament resumes on May 8.

Done and dusted in a matter of weeks!? !

Yet it has taken three years for a report on rumpy-pumpingly rampant shyster Craig Thompson to be handed down, - and then shelved for a further couple of months on totally spurious grounds. (Otherwise known as DPP laziness). If Thompson had been turfed out (or preferably into jail), even Canberra’s clanking political machinery would have resulted in a different government by now.

Julia Gillard doesn’t see any irony in this situation, but Larry Pickering does.

Speaking of which, now on the local council election in Townsville (and here, The ‘Pie would like to apologise to those readers of the nest in Ingham, Ayr, Charters Towers, Thailand, the UK and USA for not doing similar surveys in those places … this shower in Townsville has demanded all the old bird’s available time).

This column is hopefully always good for a larf or two, so a re-read of what follows after election day may have you slapping your thighs in merriment.

But here are the fearful – definitely not fearless -  predictions about who will board the Walker Street gravy train on Saturday (but since three days is a long time in boo-boo land, he will keep his mayoral projections until Saturday’s blog).

Keep in mind these tips are what The Magpie thinks will happen, not necessarily what he wants to happen.

So division by division, let’s go.
DIVISION 1:  The sitting councillor is Sue Blom and she is running on Dale Last Townsville First team. While she hasn’t appeared to do anything personally to upset anyone and seems to have been a positive councillor, she has Last’s problem of having been on a council that was forced to raise rates to eliminate an inherited deficit or be sacked and an administrator appointed. That said, she may benefit from two other candidates – Team Mullet’s Russell Lewis and Council Watch pest and Labor member Paul Jacob – cannibalising each other’s ALP votes.

The ‘Pies tip: Blom to be returned. Close, though.

DIVISION 2: There’s a similar scenario possible here, with the well-liked Tony Parsons seeking re-election as a member of Team Last (or Townsville First - bloody confusing to us old codgers. He is up against Team Mullet’s time-serving tyro and general Labor Party gofa Alec McConnell, and a fellow Labor man, Ian Barclay, who is another Council Watch pest. If he will pardon a personal observation, Mr Barclay looks a bit like Santa Clause whose been on the Aitken's Diet for a year or so. Whatever, they’ll probably eat away at each others’ numbers, And the old political warhorse Sandra Chesney is having a gallop (no offence intended, to either Ms Chesney - or old warhorses for that matter). Her association with the Mooney’s Team Titantic last time around might not help her, but she does have a public profile. Still …

The ‘Pie’s tip: Parsons to benefit from the others split vote.

DIVISION 3: This is essentially a two horse affair, with sitting councilor Vern Veitch running on Last’s Townsville First ticket, taken on by political virgin Vicki Salisbury for Team Mullet.  Veitch was elected last time around as a bit of a one trick pony, endlessly rabbiting on almost exclusively about boat ramps and fishing issues. But he seems to have grown into the job and is now seen as a competent all rounder – he is well in the mix to make a case to fellow councilors for the Deputy Doo-Dahs job. Vicki Salisbury is a seemingly personable  gal, and although she will probably get support from the not inconsiderable number of chardonnay socialists in the mansions of North Ward, her association with Team Mullet may actually work against her, given the animosity the Mullet has stirred up in Labor ranks. Independent Harrison Duncan lives on Magnetic Island and supports building a 25-bed hospital on the island, which has absolutely bugger all to do with the council. ‘nuff said about him.

The ‘Pie’s tip: Vern Veitch to get back in – probably easily.

DIVISION 4: Again we could have two candidates helping a third opponent. Council finance officer Belinda Brodie-Jacklyn, a paid-up Labor Party member for Team Mullet and Guy Reece, a Council Watch candidate of no known party affiliation, will eat away at each others support groups.  As it is, they seem to be up against an experienced quiet achiever, Townsville First team member Jenny Lane. Mrs Lane has considerable political experience, first being elected to Thuringowa Council in 1994 and continuing on the amalgamated council four years ago. Independent Sam Russo, a born-again Christian, will have his faith sorely tested if he has put his electoral chances in the hands of the Lord, let alone the voters of Condon, Kelso and Rasmussen.  It appears a race between Brodie-Jacklyn and Lane, and the rewritten divisional boundaries don’t make it any sure thing.

The ‘Pie’s tip: Jenny Lane’s long experience and likeable unassuming manner should get her home.

DIVISION 5:  Yet again, Team Mullet’s newcomer Pauline Thomas, who holds impressive uni credentials in management and economics, will be worried about independent Gary Hansen, a former union rep and a paid up member of the ALP. This division takes in parts of Kirwan, Thuringowa Central and Willows , which makes life hard for a tipster. Townsville First’s Natalie Marr was a solid performer on the last council, as chair of the Corporate Governance Committee. The fourth candidate is Pat Ernst, about which The ‘Pie knows nothing, but in light of the information that Mr Ernst is a former professional rugby league front row forward – and looks it – this old bird will refrain from any smartarse comments. Naturally, this would not be the case had Mr Ernst been one of mincing, fleet-footed fairies out on the backline.

The ‘Pie’s tip: Natalie Marr in a close one, the value of incumbency making the difference (although that didn’t help state Labor, did it?)

DIVISION 6: This appears to be a race between incumbent councillor Trevor Roberts for Townsville First and Ann-Maree Greaney, former events officer for the council, who will be carrying the flag for The Mullet.  Ms Greaney has recently returned to Townsville from parts unknown – at least to The Magpie. She’s pretty popular by all accounts, but she still hasn’t much of a local profile next Roberts, a former TV news blatherer. But although he won the by-election that got him on to council by a handy margin, there have been whispers that he could be in a much closer race this time. Funny thing is that he is much loved for projects he supported on Maggie Island, but they don’t have a say in his fate under the redrawn boundaries. The other candidate in this division is Dennis Easzon, a former RAAF bod, and doesn’t seem to about to take off in local government.

The ‘Pie’s tip:  Too close to call, but Roberts has the incumbency factor working for him if people haven’t fallen for the anti-council propaganda led by The Astonisher.

DIVISION 7: A hard one to call. Incumbent Brian Hewitt, who tried desperately but fruitlessly to get on Dale Last’s team, has to convince people that he was more than The Baron of the Buffet Table at official events. He presumably didn’t convince Last. Or Hill. (He will also overcome reports that the buffet wasn’t the only thing he couldn’t keep his hands off at catered functions). And he never did a stroke more than he ever had to take home the local government lolly. The main man here, especially since law’n’order is a major issue, is popular career copper Gary Eddiehausen. Even crims (naturally, The Magpie knows plenty of them) have told The ‘Pie they reckon he’s tough but fair – and law abiders love him. The other candidate is Robert Cedar, who The Mullet selected at the last minute – almost an afterthought when no one else was forthcoming. Which is hardly fair on a respected community worker who has managed to supply the Crocs with a couple of stars.

The ‘Pie’s tip: Eddiehausen in an uneven three horse race.

is main threat will be
DIVISION 8: Ray ‘The Walking Haystack’ Gartrell  is probably the most popular councillor of the outgoing group, but he will have to have his wits about him against hypnotism enthusiast  (yes, really, her own admission) Adrienne Isnard, for Team Mullet. Ms Isnard had a strong patron in Tony Mooney and she worked up to be the council’s City Safe bureaucrat between 1998 and 2008. She appears to be yet another person brought up on the public tit, with little real world experience. The other candidates are Gregory Wright, who apparently does home improvements and likes cars, and engineer Shahid Perves Khan, who says he is an LNP organiser but is running as an independent.  You mean like Jenny Hill is a Labor member, but is running as an independent? OK, fair ‘nuff. Neither is expected to inconvenience the returning officer much.

The ‘Pie’s tip: The Haystack should get up.

DIVISION 9: The Last Team is a bit worried about their candidate Brett Judge’s recognition factor, to the extent that his supporters have doubts he can make it. But what the hey, he’s a media and marketing specialist and a former ABC journo, he should be able to fix those things. However, he is up against Team Mullet’s Colleen Doyle, a good ALP gal. But yet again, there’s no spoiler like a party foot soldier who has his nose out of joint. Paul Fletcher is the candidate who lost Labor endorsement on a recount for the seat of Mundingburra, - which he believed he should have been pre-selected unopposed -  and thus was denied the privilege of being wiped all over the floor by David Crisafulli  (that honour went to Mark Harrison). To say Paul was pissed off would be an understatement, such was his typical party-encouraged sense of entitlement (‘stand in line until you get to the head of the queue’). There can be little doubt that he full well knows his presence will greatly undermine Doyle’s chances – nah, na, na nah na -  but probably not enough to see Judge make a successful run down the middle.

The ‘Pie’s tip: Doyle narrowly from Fletcher with a sympathy vote from disaffected Laborites.

DIVISION 10: This is straight head-to-head two-candidate race between Les Messagebank Walker and political newcomer Donna Marano, whose background is in airlines and banking. Notice that the Astonisher had him still as a warder at the Cleveland kid’s holiday home … err, folks, he hasn’t been tucking in the little treasures for a while now, and is in fact the northern organiser for the Australian Workers Union (AWU). He is unashamedly Labor and has lived in the Wulguru area all his life. One trusts he has overcome his phonephoba when he hardly ever answered his phone or returned calls when part of Mooney’s Walker Street Voting Arm Aerobics team. Marano hasn’t had the time to get any real profile or political smarts, so her campaign for 2016 starts now.

The ‘Pie’s tip: Walker comfortably, but here's a bit of visual advice - try to work out what this bloody is, Les. 
Just strap it on your belt, and when it rings ...well, mate, answer it. You'll get the hang of in no time, and look, Telstra might even upgrade you (but they'll do it verrry slowly, so's not to confuse you).

You'd better start answering , because you won’t have the arrogant buffer of a 10-2 Labor council where you didn’t have to give a stuff. (David Crisafulli had to look after many of your calls on   constituent issues back then, when people became so frustrated trying to contact you. It was several of those pissed–off Wulguru ratepayers who contacted The ‘Pie back then to alert him to the problem. Several phone calls later, from himself and other journo mates is where it all started, so don’t carry on about beat-up nicknames, sport. )

Now, save all this codswallop up until you can have a good larf at The Magpie’s expense next week.

A glutton for punishment, The Magpie’s mayoral tips will be here on Saturday.

Finally, April 25 is not only Anzac Day for Aussies, it is also Liberation Day for Italians. On April 25, 1945, Italian partisans, with the help of the Allies - including Aussies - freed Italy from the tyranny of fascist rule. This day is an annual public holiday in Italy, where they celebrate it in much the same way as we do, remembering at the start of the day, and celebrating the outcome later into the afternoon and evening in cities, towns and villages across their nation.

The Magpie reflects that on opposite sides of the world, one nation celebrates a victory that liberated it, and another celebrates a defeat that defined it, a national ethos of courage, mateship and indomitable spirit.

We are where we are today because of that defining spirit, and in a spirit of recognition, a salute to our Italian friends, too.

It is a timely reminder that we will never forget any brave person who made the ultimate sacrifice to secure the uncertain but vibrant world we live in today. Many may be less than happy with what they see in the world right now, but because of those who went before, at least we can still argue, bicker, be represented and have our say. And never be dominated by tyranny.

Lest we ever forget that.    



  1. Well 'Pie you would think that after the total wipe out in the State election the Labour party would wake up to the fact that the voters are totally sick of their negative gutter style campaigning. But no, yesterday's Astonisher had a full page add with their signature drivel of "can you trust Dale Last" and accompanied that with spurious figures, which were actually unsubstantiated lies! Also promises that will send us back into the bad old days of the Mooney- Mullet partnership train ride to operational deficits such as $103 to every household .. cost approx $7million, Freeze rates (when no one else will freeze their costs to the council in sympathy) ... cost approx $7million. Heaven help us is Jenny Hill gets elected!

  2. As always well done Magpie.

    Found this article in the astonisher today.

    20th April 2012 2:23 pm That pr fax from the greens is six days old??

    We don't deserve old news like this mate in the paper. Mr Bateman should get current news and not old crusty news like this.

  3. So....incumbency trumps huge rate rises at the margin....the wishful thinking of the LNP exposed

  4. I hope everyone saw Bob Brown admit that he was WRONG re the Franklin River debacle on Q & A this week.

  5. Soooo - the Magpie thinks drones like Sue Blom, Tony Parsons and Les Walker will get their wages paid by the long suffering public after this Saturday. What does that say about the candidates opposing them????
    After all, didn't the "well liked" (by whom, except himself)Parsons skip an important council meeting to fly to Melbourne to call a basketball game for a local radio station. And can someone (anyone) please enlighten us as to what Sue Blom has done for the last 4 years???
    And then there's Les Walker - what has he done in the past 4 - sorry 8 - years apart from nothing.
    It's sad - really sad.
    Old Magpie, me mate, I hope you are way offbeam with your predictions this time around. If not, we can look forward to another 4 years of nothing (except higher rates, hair cuts, unreturned telephone calls, and basketball junkets.

  6. Soooo Magpie - it seems that you are part of the Dale Last push. You obviously think the current clowncil has done a good job, judging by the number of Team Tyrell candidates you have picked. It also appears that you only publish comments that fit your views. Sounds a bit like the Daily Astonisher to me!!!!!

  7. The ol black and white feather duster is as entertaining as ever with his writings, keep up the good work pie

  8. Mary of Beattie Cres, VincentApril 27, 2012 at 7:00 PM

    "Haystack" did a house to house around Vincent in the rain after the tornado. Credit to a bit of old fashioned humilty.