How the taxpayer saved Newman and Bleijie $500,000
THE taxpayer has bailed out Campbell Newman and Jarrod Bleijie to the tune of half a million dollars after they were forced to settle a defamation suit with two Gold Coast lawyers.
The lawyers were reportedly paid $525,000 in order to settle the case - although the matter hasn't cost either Newman or Bleijie a red cent as the pair were protected by an indemnity which is conventionally available to Queensland's politicians.
The indemnity means ministers are able to do their jobs without fear of being sued personally and losing their own assets as a result of their decisions.
We aren't able to reveal details of the case for fear of repeating the original defamatory remarks, however, it involved Newman and Bleijie criticising the lawyers for representing alleged bikies.
The Guardian online claims legal sources said the $525,000 settlement was large for a defamation suit and a public apology may have reduced taxpayers' exposure.
However Coalition sources have since told Australian Regional Media that when the settlement was negotiated there was no offer to mitigate the damage caused by the comments.
Statutes in the Queensland Defamation Act state a court may reduce damages if a defendant can demonstrate that they made a sincere apology.
"I can confirm that the legal indemnity in relation to the case in question had been approved by the former government - that's point number one," Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told a press conference on the Gold Coast today.
"Point number two, I have written to my director-general last Friday asking him very clearly to revisit legal indemnity guidelines for minister's into the future and cabinet will be discussing those guidelines when we next meet next Monday in Brisbane.
"I am very concerned about it and that is why I believe if you are a minister of the Crown you need to take some responsibility for what you say in public and that is why my government will give serious consideration to the redrafting of those guidelines.
"The approval for the legal indemnity in this case was made under the former government.
"The new guidelines that will be in place will put a great deal of value on taxpayer's money."
However the Premier made clear she would not be doing away with the protections altogether saying: "There will still be legal indemnity guidelines for public officials."
ARM understands that Mr Bleijie and Mr Newman are unable to comment on the case as the settlement bound them to keeping its details in confidence.