John Quigley ‘corrects’ evidence in defamation case involving Clive Palmer and Mark McGowan

WA’s Attorney General has denied evidence he provided to the high-profile defamation trial involving Premier Mark McGowan and mining magnate Clive Palmer can’t be relied upon.

Mr Quigley has sought to correct evidence he gave to the Federal Court, saying his busy work schedule as a politician may have contributed to him forgetting the date he found out that Mr Palmer had not registered crucial arbitration, which could have led to a massive damages claim against the state.

Mr Palmer was pursuing billion damages, potentially worth $30, over the previous state government’s refusal to assess the Balmoral South iron ore project in the Pilbara.

Mr Palmer is suing WA Premier Mark McGowan on comments made in 2020, including Mr McGowan’s claim he was an “enemy of the state” due to his legal challenge of the state’s border.

Mr McGowan, in turn, is countersuing Mr Palmer, claiming he suffered reputational damage through claims he “abused the parliamentary system” and lied to the people of WA.

two men looking
Mr Palmer and Mr McGowan are suing each other in the Federal Court. Facebook: Clive Palmer, Mark McGowan

Mr Palmer’s legal team has been arguing the Premier had shown malice towards their client by deceitfully plotting to “torpedo” the arbitration in 2020, when the government introduced extraordinary legislation designed to prevent Mr Palmer from pursuing the damages claim against WA.

Quigley was ‘under a lot of pressure’

Today, Mr Quigley returned to the Federal Court in person to correct evidence he gave last month, telling the court he was mistaken about the timing of when he first found out about Mr Palmer’s damages award not being registered.

Mr Quigley gave evidence on March 9 regarding an interview on ABC Radio on August 13, 2020, during which he talked about the government’s intention to use legislation to head off the possible claim against the WA.

Mr Quigley told the court his previous evidence, when he said he first knew about the failure to register the award on August 12 or 13, was wrong.

He said he actually became aware before a cabinet meeting on August 11, though he could not specify how long before.

The Attorney General said that after he gave evidence last month, he was told by his Chief of Staff that he might have been wrong, and he called for the cabinet file to be retrieved to help him refresh his memory.

Mr Quigley said he’d been under “a lot of pressure” working hard as a parliamentarian and a minister, and referred to having been served with a $50 million writ by Mr Palmer, who was claiming he was involved in a conspiracy against him.

Clive Palmer walks into the Australian Federal Court
John Quigley says he was struggling with the high workload of being a minister while dealing with legal action brought by Mr Palmer. ABC News

Counsel for Mr Palmer, Peter Gray SC, asked Mr Quigley how long it was before the cabinet meeting on August 11, that he knew of the risk that Mr Palmer could get the arbitration registered.

Mr Quigley said he couldn’t recall, but he “wouldn’t say months”.

The Attorney General also couldn’t recall whether he’d done any checking before he swore his affidavit, and was taken to task about answers he gave in March, which he now admitted were wrong.

Mr Gray asked Mr Quigley: “Do you agree nothing you say in the witness box can actually be relied upon?”, to which the Attorney General answered: “No”.

Quigley an ‘outstanding’ AG: Premier

Prime Minister Mark McGowan said at a press conference on Friday morning Mr Quigley was a “very good” Attorney General.

A mid shot of WA Premier Mark McGowan arriving at court wearing a suit and tie.
Mark McGowan says John Quigley helped prevent the huge damages claim against WA. ABC News: Cecilia Connell

“I expect he’ll stay in the role,” he said.

“He’s been an outstanding Attorney General with a record of reform longer than any other Attorney General I’ve ever seen.

“And you’ve got to remember as well, he was an integral to preventing Western Australia being sued for 30 billion dollars by Clive Palmer.

Mr Palmer’s lawyer drawing ‘long bow’

Justice Michael Lee described Mr Quigley’s evidence as “not dishonest, but all over the shop.”

Acting for Mr McGowan, Bret Walker SC said some of the evidence put forward by Mr Palmer’s legal team bordered on “outright silly”.

“I’m sorry, but there it is,” he told the court.

Justice Lee said he had seen the chronology of events and suggested he was going to find that Mr Quigley was aware of the danger of the registration of the arbitration on August 13, when he engaged in the ABC Radio interview.

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