Former Jacqui Lambie staffers ordered to pay almost $100,000 after losing unfair dismissal case | Jacqui Lambie

Two of Senator Jacqui Lambie’s former staffers have been ordered to pay the commonwealth government almost $100,000 for their unreasonable conduct in an unfair dismissal trial in which a judge found they attempted to smear the senator.

Ex-chief of staff Rob Messenger and his wife, Fern, who managed the senator’s offices, were sacked for alleged serious misconduct in 2017 after Messenger sent a letter to the prime minister about alleged inappropriate workplace behaviour.

After being fired, they launched unfair dismissal claims against Lambie in the federal court.

The Messengers represented themselves in the case, which took five years to resolve. Justice John Snaden dismissed their claims in June 2022.

The commonwealth government’s attendance over the 16-day trial cost it about $200,0000, and it applied to the court to have the Messengers pay their costs.

The Messengers filed more than 1,000 pages of unnecessary evidence in 2019, a great bulk of which was irrelevant, the court found.

The court was also asked by the Messengers to issue subpoenas to a large number of potential witnesses who had no connection with the case, which added to the commonwealth’s legal costs.

The government claimed it was unreasonable for the Messengers to have spent so much time adducing “irrelevant or scandalous” evidence and said they used the trial as a “broad-ranging judicial inquiry into” Lambie’s character or trial by media.

Snaden found the Messengers’ conduct during the case was unreasonable and ordered each of them pay the commonwealth $47,300.

“I accept that the trial was extended unreasonably by the Messengers’ insistence on exploring matters that bore no connection with anything that they had pleaded,” he wrote in a judgment on Wednesday.

“Self-represented litigants are not at liberty to waste their opponents’ (and the court’s) time by requiring that they sift through and consider – and, as here, oppose – acres of irrelevant and scandalous material.”

Witnesses subpoenaed by the Messengers included senior political figures, journalists and members of Lambie’s family.

The judge said their presence was sought at trial to “smear” the senator.

Lambie’s application for costs was dismissed, as Snaden found the Messengers’ rejection of her offer of six weeks’ pay to resolve the case was not unreasonable.

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