ex-ABCC chief hits taxpayers with $400,000 legal bill

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Aussie taxpayers will soon face a bill of up to $400,000 for the legal bill of former ABCC chief Nigel Hadgkiss.

Judge Berna Collier ordered Mr Hadgkiss pay $8500, to the CFMEU for contravening the Fair Work Act

Unions attacked the $8500 penalty as “completely inade­quate”. Though supporters of Mr Hadgkiss said they were “furious” at the decision and would not rule out an appeal.

ACTU president Ged Kearney said Mr Hadgkiss had been Senator Cash’s “hand-picked attack dog” and the public funding of his legal bill was a “tremendous waste of taxpayers’ money”.

She called on Senator Cash to resign, saying: “With such utter arrogance from the minister, ­people have a right to be furious and to question her competence.’’

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Senator Cash said the decision by Mr Hadgkiss to resign “stands in stark contrast to the many CFMEU officials who remain despite numerous court findings against them’’.

Mr Hadgkiss resigned this month after admitting that in ­December 2013 he directed that looming changes to right-of-entry laws, which were beneficial to unions and workers, not be published by the FWBC.

In her judgment, Justice Collier said Mr Hadgkiss’ conduct was serious and he “admitted to contravening a law he was required to police”.

Justice Collier found Mr Hadgkiss exhibited “a degree of carelessness and, indeed, somewhat arrogant ignorance, in respect of the truth of information. His careless conduct resulted in incorrect information remaining on the FWBC website for several years, in apparent disregard of the reputational risk to the FWBC.”

She said Mr Hadgkiss had not intended to contravene the Fair Work Act. “I note the contrition expressed by the director, his remorse for his actions, the fact that he has no record of previous contravention of the FW Act, and the fact that he has paid a high personal price in the loss of his position as a result of his contra­vention,’’ she found.

The national secretary of the CFMEU’s construction division, Dave Noonan, said taxpayers should not have to pay Mr Hadgkiss’s legal bill. He said Mr Hadgkiss was “hyper-partisan” and had increased the cost to the public by unnecessarily prolonging legal proceedings.

While Mr Hadgkiss was ordered to pay the $8500 to the CFMEU, Mr Noonan said “we don’t really want Nigel Hadgkiss’s money”. The union intended to donate it to a refuge for women fleeing domestic violence, he said.

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