Australian taxpayers will foot a $277,000 bill for investigations into a car crash involving former Coalition attorney-general George Brandis.
The incident took place on November 2, 2021, at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, which Mr Brandis attended in the role he held at the time as Australia’s high commissioner to the United Kingdom.
The accident, which damaged two police cars, reportedly occurred when the diplomatic car carrying Mr Brandis tried to catch up to then-prime minister Scott Morrison’s official motorcade.
The car carrying Mr Brandis was not damaged.
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s chief operating officer, Clare Walsh, on Thursday disclosed the costs of two separate investigations into the incident.
Ms Walsh told a Senate estimates hearing that Australia’s high commission in London had ordered the first investigation, which was conducted by barrister Simon Devonshire at a cost of $11,534.
It took Mr Devonshire about a month to conduct the investigation after he was hired on December 1, 2021.
Former DFAT secretary Kathryn Campbell told a separate Senate estimates hearing earlier this year she had commissioned a “more comprehensive” probe by law firm Ashurst because the preliminary investigation was “not broad enough”.
Ms Walsh revealed on Thursday the Ashurst probe cost $240,000.
Ms Campbell had commissioned the secondary investigation because she wanted something “more comprehensive” that was “at arm’s length” of the high commission in London, Ms Walsh said.
Ms Walsh said Ashurst had interviewed 12 people — including Mr Brandis — as part of its investigation and that DFAT had received the resulting report on July 6.
The Ashurst probe focused on work health and safety issues associated with the incident.
The report found that Mr Brandis had been scheduled to catch a bus that had been organised to take members of the Australian delegation to a breakfast but his plans had been changed at the last minute.
“The advice to him about changing arrangement was made very late in the evening and was probably not effectively communicated to either himself or a member of his team,” she said.
She said UK police had sought an additional $26,320 for the damaged cars, with DFAT seeking to have this cost covered by the government’s insurer.
The two investigations did not recommend any disciplinary action for Mr Brandis’s driver.
Ms Walsh said the UK authorities were not intending to further pursue the matter, which was “now considered closed”.
Mr Brandis recently left the high commissioner role to return to Australia and take up a role at The Australian National University.