Mark Dreyfus MP

Member for Isaacs
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Morrison's Taxpayer-Funded Legal Bonanza For Ministers

26 May 2021

Taxpayers are footing the bills for the legal stumbles of Scott Morrison’s ministers, even when they are at fault and their legal bills have little to do with their official duties.

MARK DREYFUS
SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL
SHADOW MINISTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
MEMBER FOR ISAACS 
 
MORRISON'S TAXPAYER-FUNDED LEGAL BONANZA FOR MINISTERS 

Taxpayers are footing the bills for the legal stumbles of Scott Morrison’s ministers, even when they are at fault and their legal bills have little to do with their official duties.

In just one brief session of Senate Estimates this morning we learnt that:

  • Michaelia Cash’s taxpayer-funded legal bills in relation to the raid by the AFP on the Australian Workers’ Union have now exceeded $430,000;
  • Linda Reynolds has been granted taxpayer-funded assistance in relation to the Federal Police investigation into the alleged rape of her former staffer, Brittany Higgins;
  • Tasmanian Senator Jonathan Duniam has been granted taxpayer-funded legal assistance over comments he made in relation to Greens Senator Sarah Hanson Young and former Greens leader Bob Brown; and
  • Communications Minister Paul Fletcher has been granted taxpayer-funded legal assistance in the legal battle over the forced removal of Australia Post Chair Christine Holgate.

The decision to fund Senator Duniam’s legal case is outrageous. Unprompted, he used a Sky News interview to abuse Senator Hanson-Young. After she sued, he apologised.

His settlement includes an agreement to pay Senator Hanson-Young’s legal expenses, meaning taxpayers are potentially up for the entire cost of this action.

In the meantime, he continues to defend a separate legal action by former Senator Bob Brown, running up even more costs for taxpayers.

We’ve also now learnt the full cost to taxpayers of Michaelia Cash’s involvement in the raid by the AFP on the Australian Workers Union – which included her twice refusing to co-operate with an Australian Federal Police investigation into the leaking, by her own office, of information which compromised the safely of police officers - $434,757.

Linda Reynolds, who has apologised for calling her former staffer Brittany Higgins a ‘lying cow’ was approved for taxpayer-funded legal assistance ‘in relation to an Australian Federal Police investigation’.

Paul Fletcher is receiving taxpayer funded legal assistance for the ongoing battle with former Australia Post chief Christine Holgate, after she was ordered to resign by the Prime Minister over the Cartier watches affair.

Taxpayer-funded legal assistance for ministers who are sued for acting reasonably in the course of their duties is entirely appropriate.

But the Morrison Government must explain how it is that the assistance provided to Senator Cash, Senator Reynolds and Senator Duniam relates to the reasonable performance of their ministerial duties. This is taxpayers’ money – it is not Liberal Party money.   

WEDNESDAY, 26 MAY 2021