Premier Mark McGowan has rejected suggestions that Attorney-General John Quigley should be put out to pasture after being described as a “confused and confusing” witness by one of the nation’s leading Federal Court judges.
Justice Michael Lee made the remarks in his judgment on the Premier’s defamation battle with billionaire Clive Palmer, handed down last week, which was a Pyrrhic victory for both parties.
Justice Lee concluded he could not rely on the evidence Mr Quigley gave to the high-profile trial earlier this year as he flipped, flopped and then flipped again about whether the State Government had an “attack plan” for Mr Palmer.
The contradiction caused Mr Quigley to be recalled to give evidence, flying back to Sydney for a second time, which he had requested for the purpose of correcting “mistakes”.
Mr Quigley “was not a reliable historian of events”, the judge said, but did not believe he was being deliberately dishonest.
Asked on Sunday if he believed the former barrister and solicitor would be targeted with the resumption of Parliament this week, Mr McGowan said: “I can never predict what the opposition is going to do in parliament”.
“It’s up to them what they do and how they target people,” the Premier told reporters on Sunday.
“The court didn’t find that Mr Quigley was dishonest or anything of that nature: what it found was that he gave some confused evidence.
“I went there and experienced two days of being, if you like, being attacked by a Sydney QC and it’s not a pleasant experience.
“So the fact that someone made a mistake in one or two of their … answers, to me, just shows that they’re human.”
It was put to Mr McGowan by 7NEWS reporter Geof Parry that some people had suggested Mr Quigley wasn’t fit for his job anymore at age 71.
“I don’t think that’s true,” the Premier said.
“And Geof, I wouldn’t be complaining about people’s age.”
The veteran journalist laughed, remarking: “He’s only three years older than me”.
Pressed by another reporter on Mr Quigley’s gaffe despite his extensive legal experience, Mr McGowan responded: “He was integral to us defending the border that saved countless lives in Western Australia and secondly, to prevent us being taken for $30 billion.”
“He’s been an outstanding Attorney-General and those two things were outstanding achievements.”
Shadow attorney-general Nick Goiran — one of three powerbrokers of the Liberal faction known as The Clan, which has been in part blamed for the party’s thumping election losses — last week described the court case as an “embarrassing, expensive and entirely avoidable debacle … the straw that has broken Mr Quigley’s back”.
Justice Lee ruled that Mr Palmer and Mr McGowan had defamed each other in a public war of words in 2020 when the pandemic was in full swing.
Mr Palmer last year lost his High Court bid to sue the State for up to $30 billion over a stalled mining project.