So the government have settled the Ashby case against the Commonwealth – leaving Peter Slipper to face the case alone.
The Australian has quoted extensively from the letter the government sent to Ashby – this bit caught my attention:
In our assessment there are significant problems in fastening primary liability on the commonwealth given the nature of the relationship between the commonwealth and the Speaker and the fact that the acts alleged were not authorised in any way by the commonwealth.
That is a very strange argument – sexual harassment is seldom, if ever, authorised by the employer; yet the employer is liable. (Perhaps Roxon and her legal advisors believe that harassment is authorised by employers?) That is how the law is designed and intended to work. Now the Comonwealth could argue that the Speaker is not a Commonwealth employee (hmmm – probably some convention there but nobody should believe that) but Ashby is a Commonwealth employee and has been seconded to what the Commonwealth has now conceded was an unsafe work environment.
The other point that got my attention was this:
Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said the commonwealth had wanted to avoid a drawn-out “lawyer’s picnic” stretching well into next year.
“The commonwealth has been mindful of its obligations to taxpayers to achieve the most cost-effective outcomes for legal proceedings amongst other considerations,” she said.
Ms Roxon said the government had made clear it believed the case was “an abuse of process and brought for an improper purpose”.
“We don’t resile from arguments that we’ve previously made before the court that the claim was vexatious,” she said.
That is just rubbish – if Roxon honestly believes that the whole was an abuse of process then the correct solution is not a $50,000 ‘bribe’ to withdraw the case but rather to fight the case in court, set out out some case law preventing this type of abuse or failing that some legislative law reform to reduce the scope for abuse. It is not appropriate that the Commonwealth pay out taxpayer money to avoid a ‘lawyer’s picnic’ – that is an indicator of the need for law reform.