Bloody drama: Ashby banned from parliament
ONE Nation staffer James Ashby has been stripped of his parliamentary entry pass after a physical altercation with Senator Brian Burston, who has now admitted to wiping his blood on Pauline Hanson's office door.
Senate President Scott Ryan announced Mr Ashby would lose his pass this afternoon after an urgent investigation into the incident last night.
"Senator's must be free to go about their work in this building," Senator Ryan said today.
"Pass holders are granted access to the building upon certain conditions around behaviour, amongst others.
"The video footage I have reviewed records the reported incident between Senator Burston and Mr James Ashby last night.
"It shows inappropriate behaviour by a pass holder to a Senator. Accordingly, I have exercised my authority to revoke Mr James Ashby of his pass to access the building and prohibit him from re-entering the building for the time being.
"This does not effect his employment, which is not a matter for the presiding officers."
"Given the seriousness of the incident, and the evidence immediately available to me, I believe that immediate action is necessary and warranted."
In a bizarre statement following Senator Ryan's announcement, Senator Burston said: "Whilst I do not recall the incident of blood on the door, I know have come to the conclusion that it was myself and I sincerely apologise for that action."
CLASH WAS A SET-UP, BURSTON CLAIMS
Earlier, Senator Burston claimed his physical altercation with Mr Ashby at parliament was a "set up" and he is now seeking a restraining order after "repeated acts of harassment and aggression".
In a statement this afternoon, the ex-One Nation senator said he "absolutely denies all allegations" against him and would be defending them "strenuously".
"Footage in circulation of an incident between Senator Burston and James Ashby does not show the entirety of what happened," his statement said. "The full assault on Senator Burston and his wife by James Ashby has not been depicted correctly."
It added the Senator "must be able to excercise his rights to self-defence to protect himself and his wife".
An AFP spokesman told News Corp this afternoon the police had spoken to Senator Burston and would "undertake an evaluation of this matter".
Senator Burston claimed that prior to last night's "unprovoked attack" he had been "harassed and threatened" by Mr Ashby "over an extended period".
"It is clear that James Ashby has set up Senator Burston to look badly for a political purpose, all in breach of parliamentary rules," the statement said.
Senator Burston said he had referred the matter to the Australian Federal Police and had begun the process to take out a restraining order against Mr Ashby over "repeated acts of harassment and aggression of which the Senator has ample evidence".
He refused to comment further, saying the matter was "now in the hands of the police".
But a short time later, his wife - Rosalyn - issued a statement detailing her perspective of the altercation.
STATEMENT BY ROSALYN BURSTON
"Brian and I were expecting a nice pleasant night together. We were most surprised to see "Senator Hanson's staffer, James Ashby seated at our table.
"Over the last three years, Brian would complain to me about Pauline Hanson's approaches towards him.
"I offer my full support and love for Brian.
"James Ashby left the table last night about 30 minutes before Brian and I left.
"As we left the function, we weren't to know that James Ashby would deliberately ambush us.
"When James Ashby pounced on Brian and then myself, Brian threw his arms at an object in self-defence. Brian protected me from this unprovoked attacked. Consequently, James Ashby recorded this on his mobile phone and then released to it to the media.
"I find it unbelievable, that a Member of Parliament serving the people who elected him is subject to this type of behaviour.
"This behaviour would never be allowed to happen to other party leaders like Scott Morrison or Bill Shorten.
"My husband is a good man. Because he has voted with his conscience and expressed his moral sense of right as the Senate Leader of the United Australia Party, he has had to undergo continued attacks politically from the One Nation Party.
"It really is a shame, One Nation stoops to these levels to gain publicity, when they should be focussed on matters for the Australian people.
"I want everyone to know that I love my husband and admire his courage by doing the right thing by those who elected him."
An urgent investigation is underway into the violent clash between Senator Burston and Ashby.
"We will be looking into this matter as a matter of urgency," Senate President Scott Ryan told parliament this morning.
Mr Burson last night said he had reported to the Australian Federal Police an alleged incident with fellow senator Pauline Hanson's key adviser Mr Ashby.
Pictures supplied to News Corp Australia by Mr Burston show cuts to his hand, which he said were caused when he tried to take Mr Ashby's phone outside the Great Hall.
These were not the only extraordinary events in the building, with Mr Ashby providing an image which appeared to show Ms Hanson's office door had been smeared in blood.
Just as Mr Ashby refuted the claim he had attacked Mr Burston, the senator denied having had anything to do with the bloody marks on Ms Hanson's office door.
Mr Burston and his wife Ros had attended a Minerals Council dinner in the Great Hall at Parliament House in Canberra and were seated at the same table as Mr Ashby. Ms Hanson was also at the function.
Mr Burston said Mr Ashby left the function early.
He said he spotted Mr Ashby in the foyer as he and his wife were leaving the dinner. He claimed Mr Ashby ran towards him and put a phone within 10cm of his face.
"I told him to f*** off," Mr Burston told News Corp Australia last night.
He tried to grab the phone, unsuccessfully. The phone fell to the ground.
He said Mr Ashby "pursued" him, putting the phone close to his wife's face.
"I lost it," Mr Burston said. "I grabbed him and I pushed him up against the wall.
"I defended myself and my wife, physically."
Mr Burston said then a "darker fella", who identified himself as a News Corpreporter, approached him.
"I told him to f*** off too," Mr Burston said.
The senator said he had reported the incident to the Australian Federal Police and that he would seek their "protection" and a restraining order.
Mr Ashby said: "The AFP are welcome to review all video footage and they will see these claims by Brian Burston are false."
Mr Ashby said he had only been trying to take images of Ms Hanson as she left the Minerals Council function.
He said Mr Burston had lashed out and attacked him.
Mr Ryan told the Senate he would investigate the incident alongside Speaker Tony Smith after Australian Conservatives leader Cory Bernardi questioned what was being done in the senate.
"I woke up this morning to read about a very unedifying incident involving a senator and a staffer that occurred last night outside the Great Hall. I wonder what the role of the presiding officers is in investigating this, because it is of deep concern if alleged assaults can take place in this building without deep investigation," Senator Bernardi said.
The altercation came after Mr Burston had earlier in the day told News Corp Australia that Ms Hanson had sexually harassed him, a claim she said was a "load of rubbish".
Mr Burston was elected in 2016 on the One Nation ticket but quit the party last year and now represents Clive Palmer's United Australia Party.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten said the clash was "unacceptable". "The footage which I've seen ... it has no place in parliament," he said this morning.
"Some of these small parties are consumed with themselves. It would be comic, except it isn't.
"Clearly One Nation has descended back into chaos, which it tends to do."