Two Labor Party stalwarts have further damaged Michael Atkinson’s credibility by today confirming critical aspects of Ralph Clarke’s evidence to a Legislative Council Select Committee, according to Shadow Treasurer Rob Lucas.
Mr Clarke’s evidence indicated that Randall Ashbourne, acting on Mr Atkinson’s behalf, had offered two board positions worth $60,000 p.a. in exchange for Mr Clarke withdrawing damaging defamation action against Mr Atkinson. Mr Clarke also made it clear that he had discussed the details of this offer with former Senator Chris Schacht and former party whip Murray DeLaine before agreeing to settle with Mr Atkinson.
In today’s evidence, Mr Schacht and Mr DeLaine confirmed this critical aspect of Mr Clarke’s evidence.
Mr Schacht also went on to say that he didn’t believe the story that Mr Atkinson was ‘acting alone’ in his negotiations with Mr Clarke. It should be remembered that the Rann Government has been trying for some time to run the line that Randall Ashbourne was a ‘rogue agent acting alone’ in his dealings with Mr Clarke.
Mr Schacht also confirmed evidence given previously by former Labor staffer Gary Lockwood that he had told Mr Schacht about attempted bullying by Mr Atkinson of two Labor MPs to have him dismissed from his job. Mr Schacht even advised Mr Lockwood to make detailed notes of his concerns just in case they were needed for a court case or Parliamentary inquiry!
“Mr Schacht and Mr DeLaine now join a long list of witnesses who have given evidence contradicting key aspects of Mr Atkinson’s story,” Mr Lucas said today.
“There are even some Labor MPs now who do not believe key aspects of Mr Atkinson’s defence on these issues.
“Because of Mr Rann’s unwillingness to sack Mr Atkinson he will remain a political albatross hanging around the neck of the Rann Government.”
Finally, Mr Schacht stated he disagreed with the Rann Government’s view that the Legislative Council did not have the power to authorise Select Committees to continue working after prorogation of the Parliament.
A copy of a legal opinion by the former Commonwealth Solicitor-General which had been provided by the Clerk of the Senate Mr Harry Evans was tabled today at the Select Committee meeting.
“This opinion confirmed the power of the Senate and the Legislative Council to authorise committees to sit after prorogation,” Mr Lucas said.
“It is now clear that Mr Rann’s arguments to stop the work of the Legislative Council committees are without legal merit and have been exposed as desperate measures to try and prevent embarrassment to him and his Government. “