In all likelihood Mal Brough has misled parliament. Just as significantly Mal Turnbull must know this.
Mal Brough has made two directly contradictory statements.
When Brough was asked on ’60 Minutes’ whether he had requested James Ashby to procure Peter Slipper’s diary for him, he answered “Yes I did”. When Mark Dreyfus asked Brough the same question in parliament, Brough answered simply “No”.
In the ’60 Minutes’ interview Brough went further. He explained the reason why he had asked Ashby to obtain Slipper’s diary was that he believed Slipper had broken the law by misusing travel entitlements.
The contradictory nature of his two answers itself discredits Brough. But which if any of the two answers is more likely to be true?
If Brough’s ’60 Minutes’ statement is untrue then this constitutes misleading the public. But if his answer in parliament is untrue it would appear likely that he has deliberately misled parliament. This constitutes a contempt that should be punished by dismissal from Ministerial office.
Mal Brough’s statement to parliament is far more likely to be a lie than his statement to ’60 Minutes’. Here are the reasons:
- The ’60 Minutes’ statement is closer to the events in question and therefore likely to better reflect his true recollection;
- The ’60 Minutes’ statement was made before Brough realised that asking Ashby to procure the diary might constitute a criminal offence- Brough therefore had no motive to lie during the ’60 Minute’s interview;
- By the time he gave his answer in parliament Brough did have a motive to lie because he now realised the police were investigating him as an accessory to an unlawful act;
- In the ’60 Minutes’ interview Brough went further than just admitting his action in asking Ashby to procure the diary; he offered a plausible reason for doing so. This was that he thought Slipper had committed an offence. By way of contrast in his answer in parliament Brough offered no reason to support his denial; A statement for which a plausible reason is given is usually more likely to be true than one for which no plausible reason is offered, especially if there is an obvious motive to lie;
- There was no obvious reason for Brough not to tell the truth in the ’60 Minutes’ interview and the only public explanation he has given for saying what he did, which was that the question was not clear, has itself been totally discredited.
There is nothing unique about this type of analysis. Courts are called upon to perform them all the time. This is the type of analysis courts use to draw inferences about the true facts. The existence of a prior inconsistent statement by a witness is a cross examiner’s best friend. It is typically used to discredit a witness.
Mal Turnbull has defended Mal Brough. He told the Parliament that “guilt or innocence is not determined by public denunciation”.
But Mal Turnbull is a highly experienced barrister. He knows the methods that courts use to draw inferences. He knows that any reasonable analysis leads inexorably to the inference that Brough has probably misled Parliament. He knows that the case against Mal Brough goes far beyond mere “public denunciation”. His suggestions to the contrary also hopelessly fail any serious credibility test.
There are two, not just one, ‘Misleading Mals.’