Special Minister of State Mal Brough has told parliament he is sorry if he “unwittingly” added to “confusion” by his suggestion that Nine’s 60 Minutes misleadingly edited an interview in which he admitted seeking Peter Slipper’s diary extracts from a staffer of the former speaker.
The apology was an attempt to curtail the damage Brough did to himself by his Tuesday comment, as the government prepared to bunker down in the face of calls for Brough to stand aside or quit the frontbench after police raided his home in relation to his actions in the Slipper-James Ashby affair.
But what he said to the House on Wednesday raised further questions and threatened to dig him into more trouble.
Brough on Tuesday said what 60 Minutes put to air in the 2014 interview was not the full question.
When 60 Minutes produced both transcript and tape it was clear the editing had not at all changed the import of the question. It had merely removed some meaningless stumbling by the interviewer at the beginning.
Labor at the start of business on Wednesday attempted to move a censure motion against Brough for misleading parliament but was gagged.
Brough said in his statement:
My recollection of the interview was that the question was put to me in a somewhat disjointed manner and I answered the question without clarifying precisely what part of the question I was responding to.
This is confirmed by the tape by 60 Minutes, and that was the reason for my answer yesterday. I have taken the opportunity to review the tape and transcript, and I apologise to the House if my statement yesterday unwittingly added to the confusion rather than clarify the matter.
Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese said the Brough statement was “extraordinary” and “no apology to the House”.
Deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop said that “due process” in relation to the Brough matter should be allowed to run.