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Legal fees, lawyers threaten Senator

Legal fees, lawyers threaten Senator

Greens Leader Senator Bob Brown faces bankruptcy after a legal technicality saw him charged with almost $240,000 in legal fees.

THE Australian Greens Leader Senator Bob Brown faces bankruptcy after a legal technicality saw him charged with almost $240,000 in legal fees. 

Senator Brown has been informed that if he cannot pay the fees by 29 June this year, he will be disqualified from further service in the Senate.  

Senator Brown, meanwhile, says he will be able to pay the fees. Donations from more than 1,000 members of the public have poured in to help pay Senator Brown's legal costs bill.

"Most of the donations are modest but they range from $7.20 to $20,000," the latter of which was paid for the purchase of a Wedge-tail eagle painting. 

"It shows how strongly people feel about the fate of Tasmania's wild forests and their wildlife. There were many more offers to raise money," Senator Brown said.

"If we get extra money, we will put it into the campaign to save Australia's forests. Some of the other legal battles to protect our forests are still on foot, including the Gunns 20 and the Triabunna 13," he said. 

Just over a week ago Senator Brown received a hand-delivered letter from the lawyers of Forestry Tasmania threatening him with bankruptcy, a move he labels an "episode" that is "typical of the pressure tactics used by the native title forest logging industry". 

In 2006 the Federal Court found in favour of Senator Brown's claim that logging in Tasmania's Wielangta Forest threatens the endangered Wedge-tailed eagle, Swift parrot and Wielangta stag beetle. 

On a "legal technicality", Senator Brown said, the Full Bench overturned Justice Marshall's order that logging should stop, and ordered Senator Brown to pay costs instead. Last year the High Court, in a 2 to 1 judgement, endorsed this ruling. 

Senator Brown then contacted the Australian Senate, asking for a note on the consequences of Forestry Tasmania's lawyers' threat to his lawyers regarding the bankruptcy. 

It replied that Section 45 of the constitution "provides that a member of the Senate shall be  disqualified, and their place become vacant, if they become subject to any of the disabilities mentioned in section 44 (in order words, in relation to the relevant provision, if they become an undischarged bankrupt or insolvent)". 

The Senate said that if Senator Brown were to become bankrupt or "enter into an agreement with the creditors of the kind available to insolvent debtors, you would be disqualified from further service in the Senate".  


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