Former RFG boss application dismissed, ordered to pay costs

By Nick Hall | 23 Nov 2018 View comments

Former Retail Food Group (RFG) chief executive Tony Alford has been ordered to pay the commonwealth’s costs after his appeal against a forced appearance at the parliamentary inquiry into franchising was dismissed on Thursday.

Earlier this week, legal representatives for Alford and fellow former RFG executive Alicia Atkinson argued the joint committee did not have the power to issue the formal summons or refer the matter should the pair not attend.

Suggesting the formal summons was “unconstitutional”, the legal representatives also claimed the impending appearance may negatively impact on Alford’s on-going defamation case.

However, Justice Michelle Gordon was not satisfied that Alford had provided the necessary evidence to approve the request for interlocutory relief in the form of a ‘stay’.

“Given the lack of merit in the plaintiffs' substantive application for certiorari and declaratory relief and, further, given that the issues raised by the plaintiffs should generally be resolved by the Parliament, not the courts, the plaintiffs have failed to establish a prima facie case for relief,” Justice Gordon told the court.

“Even if the issues raised were capable of being justiciable, the plaintiffs' concerns about their attendance before the Corporations and Financial Services Committee on 26 November 2018 were ill-defined and hypothetical.”

The decision reaffirms that Alford and Atkinson’s failure to attend before the Corporations and Financial Services Committee would be reported to the Senate and may be treated as contempt.

Inside Franchise Business reported in October that Alford, Atkinson and former RFG managing director Andre Nell had denied four previous requests to appear from committee chair, Michael Sukkar.

"The committee would like to question Mr Alford, Mr Nell and Ms Atkinson about RFG's business model and operations during their tenure,” Sukkar told IFB.

After dismissing the application and ordering the plaintiffs to pay costs, Justice Gordon suggested the matter should be relisted.

“The plaintiffs’ application by summons filed 19 November 2018 should be dismissed. Costs should follow the event. The parties, and the AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth, should have the matter relisted for directions to address the future management of the plaintiffs’ substantive application,” Justice Gordon told the court.

It is still unclear whether Alford, Atkinson and Nell will face the inquiry on Monday, November 26.