Milne ordered to pay rally costs
A FEDERAL Court judge has chastised Tweed councillor Katie Milne for her failed legal bid to stop last month's world championship car rally and ordered her to immediately pay the rally organisers' legal costs, understood to be more than $26,000.
Justice Margaret Stone in the Federal Court on Tuesday said Cr Milne's attempt to seek an injunction against the rally the week before it was held was “ill-considered and misconceived”. She ruled Repco Rally Australia's costs in defending the case should be “payable forthwith” by Cr Milne.
If Cr Milne does not pay the costs, it is understood recovery of the money could lead to seizure and sale of any property she has, an order for redirection of her income or the appointment of a receiver.
Yesterday Cr Milne did not return phone or email requests from the Tweed Daily News seeking a response.
But Murwillumbah Business Chamber president Toni Zuschke said Cr Milne, in addition to paying the costs, owed the community an apology for the court case.
“She should have done a lot more homework,” Mrs Zuschke said.
“We need councillors who can do their homework. When you are a councillor you have to vote for what is in the best interests of the entire community.
“She (Cr Milne) was only representing a minority.”
Rally Australia chairman Alan Evans yesterday declined to comment directly on the costs his committee is seeking, but said Rally Australia was “pleased with Justice Stone's judgment”.
Rally representatives had previously indicated the costs would be “in the vicinity of $26,000”.
“Cr Milne's attempt to stop the rally was unjustified, caused needless last-minute uncertainty among patrons, suppliers, competitors and organisers and forced significant legal expense upon Rally Australia,” he said. “Justice Stone's finding that there was no case to ans- wer based on Cr Milne's claim vindicates the rally's comprehensive approach from the outset to protecting flora and fauna.
“The rally opponents' fears failed to materialise.
“Repco Rally Australia was an outstanding, popular success and we look forward to staging an even bigger and better event in 2011.”
Justice Stone in her ruling on costs said Ms Milne “on her own admission” had “known about the proposed rally since September 2008”, yet no satisfac- tory excuse or explanation was given for the delay in bringing the court case.
Justice Stone said it would have been “most unjust” at such a late stage “to interfere with plans and arrangements that have been in train for such a long time without very clear evidence of illegality” and no such evidence was presented.
“In my view the applicant's case was ill-considered and misconceived,” Justice Stone said.
“The applicant came nowhere near establishing a prima facie case.
“Ultimately there was no admissible evidence to support the applicant's claim. There was simply no case to answer.
“In my view the respondent should not have been put in the position of having to respond to a case with so little merit and at such a late stage.”
Justice Stone said Cr Milne's application for an injunction was served shortly after 5pm on August 24, giving Rally Australia Pty Ltd “little more than two days in which to retain and commission an expert to respond”.
On top of that Rally Australia had pointed out if an injunction had been granted on such short notice and so close to the commencement of the rally they, along with many others such as “international teams, ticket holders, including those who have purchased flights and accommodation to attend the rally, and those who have been granted commercial rights” would have been affected.