Former RFG executive challenges “unconstitutional” forced inquiry appearance

By Nick Hall | 22 Nov 2018 View comments

Legal representatives for former Retail Food Group (RFG) chief executive Tony Alford have argued that his forced appearance at the parliamentary inquiry into the Franchising Code of Conduct goes against constitutional rights.

At a High Court hearing on Wednesday, Dr Gillian Dempsey told Justice Michelle Gordon that under the constitution, the joint parliamentary committee did not have the right to force citizens to attend questioning.

“We are saying that they lack power to do that under the Constitution and that the reason for which they lack power to do that under the Constitution is twofold: one, that they are a Joint Committee and that they do not have the powers delegated to them through each of the Houses of Parliament…and then, two, that they have not in any event, both the Senate and the House of Representatives, acquired the powers according to the grand inquest or the High Court of Parliament,” Dempsey told the court.

Dempsey then argued that Alford should not have to front the hearing on Monday, suggesting the questioning may affect his on-going defamation case.

“We are seeking relief in the form that the Joint Committee not continue to call upon our clients until such further or other order of this honourable Court.”

The application comes in response to a formal summons issued by committee chair Michael Sukkar requesting Alford, former RFG managing director, Andre Nell and former executive Alicia Atkinson face questioning regarding RFG’s business model.

In October, Sukkar told Inside Franchise Business that the former executives had denied four previous requests to appear at hearings.

“I can confirm that summons have been issued to former RFG executives Mr Tony Alford, Mr Andre Nell and Ms Alicia Atkinson to appear before the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services at a public hearing into the operation and effectiveness of the Franchising Code of Conduct. This follows four requests that have been denied,” Sukkar said.

Alford, Nell and Atkinson have all been noticeable admissions to the previous public hearings, including that which saw current RFG boss, Richard Hinson face questioning in September.

Following a 90 minute session, Justice Gordon adjourned the court to consider her decision, to be handed down on November 22.

Alford, Nell and Atkinson were set to appear before the Senate on Monday, November 26.