Are Michael Lawler’s secret recordings legal?

An employment lawyer weighs in on the VP of the Fair Work Commission’s recent admission that he has been recording workplace conversations for years.

Are Michael Lawler’s secret recordings legal?
Fair Work Commission vice president Michael Lawler recently revealed he has been covertly recording phone conversations with his boss as his role in his partner Kathy Jackson’s legal case.

“It's become necessary these last four years to assemble evidence,” he told the ABC’s Four Corners program.

“I was a specialist fraud prosecutor; I understand the importance of evidence and maintaining it.

“I’ve been assembling evidence with great care and effort for four years now.”

HC spoke to Alan McDonald, managing director of law firm McDonald Murholme – where secret workplace recordings are a topic commonly brought to the firm’s attention.

According to McDonald, Lawler’s intentions legitimise his actions.

“It is legitimate to record conversations to be used to protect oneself later, which is clearly the advice and opinion of Vice President Lawler,” he said.

“By having the recording, it provides first class evidence so people can focus on the real issue.

“Judges are not troubled by the issue of who to believe in an oral conversation because it is recorded.

He added that everyone benefits when evidence is clear and unambiguous, as it is in a recording.

“It also allows the conflicting party to respond knowing precisely what the allegation is,” McDonald said.

McDonald also said that Ross – whose conversations were recorded by Lawler – can provide a response, if he wishes to do so, to the allegation that the secret tape recordings are in stark contrast to his public statements.

“One would expect that President Ross would make a detailed response without the need for a costly public inquiry or Royal Commission to investigate what is really going in the Fair Work Commission,” McDonald said.

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