Taxpayers receive $436,000 legal bill for Hadgkiss defence

Taxpayers have received a $436,000 legal bill for the defence of former ABCC Commissioner, Nigel Hadgkiss.

As expected, the opposition has renewed calls for Employment Minister Michaelia Cash to be sacked.

In September, The Federal Court ordered Mr Hadgkiss to pay an $8500 penalty.

Judge Berna Collier found he displayed “arrogant ignorance”, and careless conduct in breaching the Fair Work Act.

Acting ABCC Commissioner Cathy Cato, appeared at a Senate estimates hearing yesterday, and confirmed that the cost to tax­payers had ballooned.

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Ms Cato said the cost was originally estimated at $35,000 to $50,000.

It increased to $170,000 in February, then to $260,000 in May before rising to $418,000.

Another $18,000 went on in-house advice taking the total bill to $436,000.

Senator Cash told the hearing the cost would have to be absorbed by the ABCC within its existing budget.

This came as the AWU served a subpoena on David De Garis, a former senior media adviser to Senator Cash, to appear in court proceedings.

There was a hubbub at the estimates hearing about the ­location of Mr De Garis. His lawyer contacted lawyers for the AWU to organise receipt of the subpoena.

AWU national secretary Daniel Walton said the union had also served subpoenas on the following people.

Senator Cash,
the Fair Work Ombudsman, and.
Mark Lee, a staffer with the Registered Organisations Commission.

The AWU said lawyers for Senator Cash had applied to have her subpoena set aside.

Senator Cash said she had not spoken to Mr De Garis since last month when he resigned from her office. (Mr De Garis admitted he leaked information to the media about an AFP raid on the AWU).

Investigators were hired by the AWU to serve the subpoenas which are related to legal action it has taken seeking correspondence between Senator Cash, her office and the ROC about the AWU raids.

Senator Cash refused to answer questions about her office’s involvement in the leak to the media about the AFP raids, citing the AWU legal action and the AFP investigation into the leak.

Opposition workplace relations spokesman Brendan O’Connor called on Malcolm Turnbull to sack Senator Cash. “Minister Cash presided over the resignation of her hand-picked commissioner for breaching the law he was supposed to uphold,” he said.

“She approved taxpayers paying almost half a million dollars for him to drag out the case for more than 12 months before admitting breaching the Fair Work Act.

“She lost an adviser for leaking a federal police investigation to the media; there is currently a federal police investigation into her office’s conduct; she has misled the Senate five times; and she has fatally politicised each of the regulators she is responsible for.

Image: Former ABCC chief Nigel Hadgkiss. (Source: The Australian)

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