Senator Jacqui Lambie has told a court two of her former staff members were trying to “belittle” and “shame” her when they sent a letter to then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, detailing their list of grievances with her.
- Ms Lambie told the court Rob and Fern Messenger had been able to track her through her phone
- She dismissed claims office staff were “on eggshells” around her, saying it was Mr Messenger they feared
- Upon learning of the letter to Malcolm Turnbull, Ms Lambie said she was “quite upset … I was quite angry”
The senator’s former chief of staff and office manager, Rob and Fern Messenger, have taken her to the Federal Court, alleging they were unfairly dismissed in May 2017 after raising workplace health and safety issues.
The pair worked for Senator Lambie for about three years, covering her time as a Palmer United Party senator and eventual transition to independence.
Giving evidence on Monday, Senator Lambie told the court it was not until her second term in Federal Parliament that she began to suspect there was “something going on in the office”.
She said the catalyst was a conversation with the Messengers who told her “staff were walking around on eggshells” and had “made complaints about [her] mood swings”.
She said it was “really upsetting” to find out her staff felt that way and had not talked to her about it.
“I wasn’t crying profusely, but there were certainly tears coming down my cheeks,” she said.
“I had a lump in my throat. It was just awful. Something awful to sit through.”
But she said she later began to suspect she was not the problem.
‘They might as well have been microchipping me’
It was a few months later, during a road trip, that Senator Lambie said two of her staff members found the “courage” to tell her they were having issues with Mr and Ms Messenger.
“They felt like they were being bullied,” she told the court. “If you upset them [Mr and Ms Messenger] then they didn’t speak to you for weeks on end.
“[The staff] were terribly concerned about their jobs and they’d wanted to speak to me for some time.”
Staff had earlier told the court the Messengers had asked them to report Senator Lambie’s movements, including who she met with, back to them.
Senator Lambie repeated this and claimed in court the duo had been able to track her through her phone and shared diary.
“They might as well [have been] microchipping me,” she told the court. “If there were phone calls coming through, they knew.
“They knew exactly where I was at any time. They were gathering a lot of information from my own phone.”
In the weeks that followed, Ms Lambie described her relationship with Mr Messenger as “coming unstuck” and “at breaking point”.
She also repeatedly said “there was no trust left” between her and the Messengers towards the end of their employment.
“I was finding my feet in Parliament and didn’t need to rely on Mr Messenger. He was struggling with that because he was losing control,” she said.
Complaint to Turnbull ‘absolutely disgusting’
Ms Lambie told the court she feared staff would leave and she “couldn’t see a way [to] possibly resolve this”.
“This office had become dysfunctional and it was starting to hurt other employees,” she said.
In March 2017, the Messengers sent then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull a letter detailing some of their issues with the senator.
They claimed she swore excessively, regularly discussed her sex life in the office and minimised “a terror attack” on her office.
“I was quite upset. I was quite angry,” Ms Lambie said.
“I thought: ‘Why would you send it to a prime minister?’ That’s absolutely disgusting! What was he hoping to get out of it?
“It was a letter to get out there and air how he felt about me, and that’s it.”
The Messengers claim it was because of this letter and their decision to copy Mr Turnbull into further correspondence that they were dismissed.
But Ms Lambie has denied this.
The hearing is scheduled to finish on February 17.
Thank you for stopping by and checking this article involving Tasmanian and Australian news named “Jacqui Lambie goes on offensive over ex-staffers’ unfair dismissal claims”. This article was posted by MyLocalPages as part of our local and national news services.
#Jacqui #Lambie #offensive #exstaffers #unfair #dismissal #claims