Two businessmen who used the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) as a forum for mudslinging have been censured by the tribunal adjudicator.
QCAT was asked to adjudicate a minor debt matter where Yatala business Cooling and Heating Equipment claimed money for goods sold or delivered but not collected by Arundel business Multichoice Filtration.
As part of the proceedings, Cooling and Heating Equipment director Adrian Bartlett applied for a citation of Multichoice director Clinton Esplin for contempt of “court” because Mr Esplin accused his company of tax evasion by alleging he avoided payment of GST on the products in question.
Mr Bartlett’s application denied Mr Esplin’s “slanderous” allegation, and stated it was Multichoice Filtration which had evaded paying GST in the transaction.
At the hearing in Southport on 5 October, Adjudicator Walsh found the allegations from both men were without substance, and issued a stern warning.
He stated QCAT’s jurisdiction did not include proceedings for contempt when dealing with minor civil disputes, but a QCAT adjudicator could certify contempt to initiate proceedings elsewhere, and he dealt with the application on that basis.
However, he said the facts and evidence of the matter established the contempt the directors held for each other, and this did not amount to contempt of the tribunal.
“Defamation, tax evasion, and any related criminal wrongdoing, have nothing whatsoever to do with the merits of the minor debt proceedings brought by the Applicant and defended by the Respondent concerning a claim for money for goods sold and delivered or receivable but declined,” he said.
“They are utterly irrelevant to the merits or otherwise of the contractual obligations of the parties and the issues that this tribunal is called on to adjudicate and decide, and they are an unnecessary and gratuitous waste of the tribunal’s limited time and financial resources.”
Adjudicator Walsh said the two men appeared “to have lost all sight of the need for civility, courtesy, mutual respect, and respect for the tribunal”.
“Mr Bartlett and Mr Esplin have chosen a perceived opportunity to insult and vilify each other, in the process unnecessarily inconveniencing each other, frustrating the tribunal’s statutory efficiency functions and objectives, unacceptably wasting the tribunal’s already limited time and monetary resources, and usurping opportunity for other litigants to have their disputes resolved quickly and economically,” he said.
“It suffices for present purposes to say that the parties seem intent on using this forum as a litigation playground in which to settle grudges and grievances that are not justiciable here.
“I will not permit that to continue whilst I remain the adjudicator constituting the tribunal for adjudication and reconsideration of what is a very complex claim for a minor debt on its merits.
“There may be significant consequences when parties, their representatives, or officers, misbehave in this way.
“I explain that I will not hesitate to apply one or more of the sanctions available under the provisions of the QCAT Act if the parties, by their respective directors, persist in misbehaviour causing unnecessary inconvenience or if they continue to treat each other with contempt. Nor in future will I hesitate to certify contempt if I decide it is warranted.
“The parties and the directors are on notice accordingly.”
Adjudicator Walsh ordered the Form 40 application (for miscellaneous matters) filed by Mr Bartlett on 19 September be refused.