Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash

Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations

Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate

Senator for Western Australia

MEDIA RELEASE

14 February 2023

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUST EXPLAIN CLEAR CONFLICT OF INTEREST

The Attorney General, Mark Dreyfus must explain to the Australian people why he decided to personally make the decision in regard to a proposed $150,000 costs settlement between the ABCC and the CFMMEU when he could have delegated it to his Department.

Under questioning in Senate Estimates hearings today the Attorney General’s Department confirmed that if Mr Dreyfus had felt there was a conflict of interest or perceived conflict of interest, he could have delegated the decision to the Department.

“Mr Dreyfus needs to explain why he believes there was no conflict of interest,’’ Senator Cash said.

Mr Dreyfus, refused to allow the ABCC to pursue a costs order in its favour against the CFMMEU. He only authorised a settlement on the basis that the CFMMEU pay no costs. This effectively left taxpayers $150,000 out of pocket.

“Here, in the CFMMEU, you have one of the biggest donors to the Labor party – we know they gave $4.3 million last year – and the Attorney General of Australia decides it is ok for him to personally make the decision which waived the $150,000 costs settlement request,’’ she said.

“The proper course of action would have been to disqualify himself from the decision-making process and allow the Department to make an independent decision,’’ she said.

“Mr Dreyfus talks a lot about transparency and integrity in Government but clearly doesn’t believe those things apply to him,’’ Senator Cash said.

The $150,000 settlement request was made by the ABCC after it won a case in the Federal Court and the judge ordered the CFMMEU, which had intervened in the case to raise constitutional issues, to pay costs.

The Attorney General was called on the make a ruling on the settlement because it was deemed a “Significant Issues Settlement Request.” But as revealed today he could have delegated that decision to the Department if a conflict arose.

“Mr Dreyfus knows that any reasonable person would look at this and think there was a likely conflict of interest or certainly the perception of one,’’ she said.

ENDS