One of the toughest gigs in Australian politics is that of opposition leader in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly.
This was particularly true during the 27 years that the NT Labor Party suffered in that role while the Country Liberal Party ran the joint between 1974 and 2001, before Clare Martin finally led Labor out of the wilderness.
Labor did a tolerably good job of running the NT until it ran out of enthusiasm and skill, and was smacked by a resurgent CLP under Terry Mills at the 2012 general election.
Delia Lawrie was elected as Labor opposition leader and by early this year was sitting pretty to win the next election in a canter, largely due to the manifest failures of the CLP under chief ministers Terry Mills and, following an ugly coup in March 2013, Adam Giles, who now leads a minority government. That election — if the CLP can run their full term — will be in late August 2016.
The only blot of any note on Lawrie’s political copybook was the attempted transfer to a local union group of a very advantageous lease of a mouldering old building — the Stella Maris seafarers hostel — during the dying days of the Labor government in 2012. The CLP initiated an inquiry into the Stella Maris deal by Commissioner John Lawler, who handed down his report in June 2014. That report is widely regarded as having delivered little more than a slap on the wrist to Lawrie and Labor.
But Lawrie couldn’t let Lawler’s dog lie, and so applied to the NT Supreme Court, arguing that Lawler had denied her procedural fairness. Earlier this year Justice Stephen Southwood dismissed her application. As I’ve reported here, here, here, here, here, and here, Lawrie’s Supreme Court application was a squib from the start.
On Friday last week, Southwood delivered his Reasons for Judgment in Lawrie v Lawler (No. 2) to a smattering of local scribblers and train-wreck bystanders. That judgment concerned an application by Lawler’s counsel for their client’s costs in the matter to be paid by Lawrie. The headline figure is that Lawrie will have to pay a total of $214, 876, and while that is remarkable enough in itself, the real interest is in how Southwood dealt with the details of the costs application, particularly the submissions by Lawler’s counsel, Michael Maurice QC.
Maurice submitted that “lump sum” costs should be awarded against Lawrie because:
“… this was a proceeding that should never have been commenced. The proceeding was commenced on two false premises which were ultimately abandoned and Ms Lawrie was incapable of answering the defence of waiver. Indeed she made no real attempt to answer that defence to her claim.”
Read the rest at The Northern Myth.