Canberra’s Tax Office letter bomber has won a battle against the government over his right to continue receiving worker’s compensation for its mishandling of a workplace love affair.
Former public servant Colin George Dunstan sent 28 bombs in the post to colleagues and high-profile figures in 1998. One of Mr Dunstan’s bombs exploded in a mail centre and injured a postal worker. The rest were intercepted by police, but the letters had already caused mass evacuations and fear just before Christmas.
Mr Dunstan, now in his late 50s, spent nine years in prison over the notorious letter-bombing campaign, and was formally sacked from the public service in 2001. The crimes came after a turbulent romantic affair with a colleague, known as ”Ms X”, that took place over a number of years.
The former Australian Tax Office employee claimed he was left feeling suicidal and depressed after the woman sexually harassed and stalked him. He won a long-running compensation battle in 2012 when the Administrative Appeals Tribunal ruled the ATO had compounded his depression through its handling of the matter.
But, the year after Mr Dunstan’s win, federal government workplace insurer Comcare decided he should stop receiving compensation because he had become eligible for the superannuation pension at the age of 55. That pension, part of the generous Commonwealth Superannuation Scheme, was valued at about $1066 a week, or a $40,000, lump sum.
But Dunstan never formally elected to take the superannuation out, either as a lump sum or a weekly payment. The government insurer argued that Mr Dunstan, and others in his position, were ”double-dipping”, forcing the government to contribute to their super benefits while also paying them workers’ compensation.
But Comcare lost its fight in the tribunal last year, and was ordered to keep paying the former public servant compensation until he turned 65, died, or became permanently disabled. Comcare appealed in the Federal Court on Friday, arguing before the full bench that the tribunal’s decision was flawed.
It based the appeal on two grounds, alleging the tribunal had misdirected itself in interpreting the meanings of terms in relevant legislation. It argued that Mr Dunstan had the ability or right to take the superannuation pension at the age of 55, which could have meant he was taken to have received it. That could then have disqualified him from the compensation payments.
But the Federal Court ruled against Comcare without hearing submissions from Mr Dunstan’s barrister. It said no error had been made by the tribunal and dismissed the appeal.
Comcare was ordered to pay Mr Dunstan’s costs. Mr Dunstan still has two ongoing legal battles with authorities, in the ACT Supreme Court and at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. He is arguing against his original suspension from the ATO in the Supreme Court.
There is no more to be said, I wonder how this claim can be accepted when so many others, with arguably more merit, are rejected.