One Nation staffer, and Pauline Hanson’s right-hand man, James Ashby has lost his bid to see the Commonwealth pay $4.5million in legal costs incurred in litigation with his former boss Peter Slipper.

It is the latest development in a case which dates back almost a decade to when Ashby, in April of 2012, filed a lawsuit alleging Slipper had sexually harassed him via text messages and lewd remarks. At the time, Slipper was installed as speaker of the House of Representatives by the Labor Party after defecting from the coalition. 

Yet in December of the same year, the sexual harassment charges were struck out by Justice Steven Rares, who described it as an “abuse of process” and ruled that the real purpose of the litigation was to bring down the speaker and in turn damage the minority government, which was led by Julia Gillard at the time. Justice Rares also said that the case should never have been brought before a court.

This decision was later overturned on appeal with the case sent back for another hearing, which never eventuated. Ashby would cite mounting legal costs as the reason for dropping the case.

And while the former Labor government agreed to cover Slipper’s legal costs, Ashby was left to cover his own bill which amassed to $3.67million for his own costs and more than $780,000 in costs incurred by his solicitor Michael Harmer.

Advertisement
 Ashby had originally asked the Federal Government in 2018 to have these costs covered, arguing that the Commonwealth had unfairly tipped the scales by agreeing to pay Slipper’s costs. But the request was rejected. Last year a delegate of the Finance Minister wrote that Ashby had chosen to sue despite other options being available to him, and that ultimately it was Ashby’s job to manage his own legal costs.

“Mr Ashby’s position, as the instigator of the legal action, is not analogous to that of Mr Slipper,” the June 2020 reasons read. “While Mr Ashby may have sought redress through other mechanisms, Mr Slipper was required to respond to the legal action once it was instigated by Mr Ashby.”

Ashby claimed the department had failed to properly address his status as a whistleblower, a claim that was yesterday, rejected by the Federal Court. Justice Robert Bromwich said, “Mr 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.”

Ashby also failed in his bid to convince the court that the appointment of a decision-maker inside the finance department was flawed.

A second arm of the case, which centres on Ashby’s claim that the rejected grace payment application was an adverse action contrary to the Fair Work Act, will proceed in February.

© Star Observer 2021 | For the latest in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, be sure to visit starobserver.com.au daily. You can also read our latest magazines or Join us on our Facebook page and Twitter feed.