Retired chief justice Wayne Martin is being paid $10,000 a day by the State Government for working one day a week on a legal saga dubbed a “lawyers’ degustation” by Attorney-General John Quigley.
The two-year Bell Group litigation consultancy is potentially worth $520,000 a year to Mr Martin, which is more than he earnt as the most senior judge in WA, and will be paid on top of his annual pension of about $300,000.
Because the 65-year-old receives a pension, under law he can only offer strategic advice to the State rather than legal advice on how to end the 23-year-old legal quagmire being overseen by the Insurance Commission of WA.
“The consultancy agreement between ICWA and Mr Martin was not negotiated by myself but by ICWA, which is an independent commission,” Mr Quigley said.
He had previously described the long-running case as a “lawyers’ picnic” when the legal bill passed $200 million and it was estimated that it would reach $400 million if the case was unresolved by 2025.
“It’s become more like a degustation,” Mr Quigley said yesterday.
“The Bell litigation is immensely complex and I have been advised it could run for another 10 years if we don’t deal with it decisively.”
The long-running case followed the collapse of Alan Bond’s Bell Group and despite there being a settlement for $1.8 billion in 2013, there has been no resolution with creditors, including the ICWA and the Australian Taxation Office.
The Opposition called on Mr Quigley to explain how the public is getting value for money “by paying a legal expert $1 million for 104 days work when that work specifically excludes providing legal advice”.
“It is extraordinary that the State Government would employ one of the State’s pre-eminent legal minds to specifically not provide legal advice,” shadow attorney-general Michael Mischin said.
“In Opposition, Mr Quigley was very loud in his criticism of the money spent on the Bell litigation.”
A second lawyer assigned to the case with Mr Martin is receiving $450 an hour for working up to four days a week over two years.
“The complexities of the liquidations, the events involving the companies during the 1980s and the litigation over the decades warrants the engagement of a range of experienced legal and strategic advisers,” an ICWA spokesman said.
Mr Quigley said Mr Martin’s $10,000 once-a-week deal was “commensurate with fees charged by a senior retired judicial officer for mediation or arbitration work which does not require a Legal Practising Certificate”.
“Mr Martin does not hold a Legal Practising Certificate,” Mr Quigley said.
The former chief justice declined to comment.