Controversial mogul and political meddler Clive Palmer has once again outdone himself. The Palmer United Party founder today announced that his party would be suing Jacqui Lambie and Glenn Lazarus, former PUP senators who ran with the party’s assistance in the last election. According to the party line, Mr. Lazarus and Ms. Lambie are being sued for the amount that was initially spent by the PUP on their respective campaigns: nine millions dollars!
First-term Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie has expressed her solemn disappointment at the announcement, adding that Mr. Palmer initially promised not to sue her after she left the fledgling party. But now, PUP director Peter Burke has said the senators do indeed owe the PUP for breaking their promise to represent the party for the full term.
“Relying on those promises, the party spent millions of dollars and thousands of party supporters worked hard to get Mr Lazarus and Ms Lambie elected,” Mr Burke said in a written statement. “They have now broken their promises and the party will seek to recover in the courts — under the principle of promissory estoppel — those party funds.”
Speaking to the ABC, Mr. Palmer seemed confident in his chances. “It was a typical promise, a reliance on that promise and then they broke their promise,” he explained. “The law is, if that happens, it’s called ‘promissory estoppel’, you don’t get any damages and you don’t get any interest but you’re entitled to your money back.”
The weak legal argument isn’t likely to stop the rabble-rousing demagogue from pursuing his own ends. In fact, it’s clear to many commentators and insiders that the legal case will amount to little more than a mud-slinging exercise.
From her perspective, Ms. Lambie maintains a sense of surprise and shock at the announcement. “If there was one thing he did promise me when I left the party last year, when we had a one-on-one, was that he’d never sue me and that he was very proud of the way I’d performed and he was grateful to have had me as a part of his party,” she explained to the ABC. “Well considering it’s April Fools’ Day, I wasn’t quite sure whether it was for real or not, but I certainly haven’t been sent any legal papers or documents as such, so I’ll just sit and play the waiting game.”
“I intend to get some advice, some legal advice, and I’ll get advice from the Clerk of the Senate about possible contempt of Parliament because as far as I’m concerned, no one’s allowed to interfere with the free and fair performance of a senator,” Ms. Lambie said. “In the past, threatening Members of Parliament with legal action have been ruled as a contempt of Parliament so whether or not this issue will eventually be referred to the Ethics and Privileges Committee, we’ll see.”
So it appears the game of cat and mouse will continue unabated for some time…
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