One Nation staffer and Pauline Hanson’s chief of staff, James Ashby has been served yet another blow by the courts. Ashby’s second attempt to recoup mounting legal costs to the tune of $3.67 million was quashed by a Federal Judge on Friday ruling in favour of the Commonwealth.
As reported by Star Observer back in January, Ashby had sought that the Commonwealth pay legal costs – $3.67million for his own costs and more than $780,000 in costs incurred by his solicitor Michael Harmer. – incurred in his litigation with his former boss Peter Slipper.
The request was pertaining to allegations of sexual misconduct levelled at Slipper, dating back to 2012 in which Ashby alleges he was sexually harassed via text message and “lewd remarks”. One part of his claim was rejected in January and last week, the second part where he claimed that he was treated unlawfully under the Fair Work Act was also knocked out.
In January, Justice Robert Bromwich had said that Ashby “considered that his asserted status as a whistleblower, and his asserted public interest motive in bringing the proceeding against Mr Slipper and the Commonwealth, were of great and even determinative significance in his application for an act of grace payment. However, the delegate (of the finance minister) was not obliged to share that view or to treat such claims as being significant, let alone determinative.”
Commonwealth Can Seek Legal Costs From Ashby
At the time of the allegations, the minority Gillard government was fighting to maintain control of the Parliament, with Ashby working for Slipper- who defected from the Coalition to be installed as speaker of the house by the Labor Party in 2011.
Ashby abandoned the lawsuit in June 2014, and while the Commonwealth covered the legal costs incurred by Slipper in lieu of management liability insurance, refused to do so for Ashby.
Ashby had then sought a grace payment by the federal finance department, but following this request being denied, had submitted that this was an adverse action that contravened the Fair Work Act.
However, Justice Robert Bromwich on Friday dismissed the claim and invited the federal government to apply for costs to be paid by Ashby, saying that “It is not in doubt that an important reason why the act of grace application was refused was because Mr Ashby chose to pursue the litigation against Mr Slipper and thereby to incur costs, when alternative and less costly remedies, including the exercise of other workplace rights, were available to him.”
Bromwich said in his judgment that “falls within the description of the Fair Work Act of being action that is authorised by or under a law of Commonwealth,” adding that it did not constitute adverse action.
“In those circumstances, there is no reasonable prospect of Mr Ashby successfully prosecuting the balance of his proceeding relying upon there being adverse action.”
The Commonwealth has until August 6 to advise whether it will seek costs from Ashby.