The Australian government has secured an out-of-court settlement on the case filed by James Ashby, a former staff of House Speaker Peter Slipper who sued his erstwhile boss earlier this year for sexual harassment.
Canberra was dragged into the case as Mr Ashby claimed that he got harassed due to negligence on the part of federal authorities to provide a safe workplace for government workers.
In a prepared statement, a spokesman by Mr Ashby told the Australian Associated Press (AAP) that the Commonwealth had offered $50,000 to end the case and it was apparently accepted.
The government-initiated deal will include an "improved education program for staff in relation to issues of bullying and harassment and to offer specific training for MPs and senators in relation to sexual harassment," Mr Ashby's spokesman said.
The statement also clarified that the case lodged by Mr Ashby was not meant to extract monetary considerations from either Mr Slipper or the federal government but to ensure that what happened will not be repeated.
In fact, the spokesman pointed out, Mr Slipper will have to face Mr Ashby again on Tuesday next week as the legal dispute between the two will be sustained despite the settlement broached by the government.
Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said in a statement that with the deal sealed, the government has avoided a costly and unnecessary legal trouble "that could have extended well into next year."
She explained too that "settlements aren't about who is right or wrong, they are about bringing matters to a speedy conclusion, which the commonwealth has now achieved,"
Canberra also expects that Mr Slipper would be free of legal trouble with Mr Ashby as a direct result of the arrangement sought by government solicitor's office, the AG said.
"The case should now be dropped against Mr Slipper as well and the whole matter should be brought to a speedy conclusion in coming days," Ms Roxon stressed on her statement.
Yet the development only validated what Mr Ashby has been harping about since the controversy first erupted, Shadow Attorney-General George Brandis told reporters in Brisbane.
"The government would not have settled this claim unless its lawyers had advised it that Mr Ashby had good prospects of success," Senator Brandis was reported by AAP as saying on Friday.
ABC reported that the government move on the matter represents "a big back flip ... (considering that) the Commonwealth had been trying to have the matter thrown out of court."
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