New South Wales Labor MP Mike Kelly, who represents the bellwether seat of Eden-Monaro, faces a legal bill ''in excess of $100,000'' after the High Court ruled against his application to have a defamation suit against him struck out, although he insists the bill does not put him at risk of bankruptcy and therefore exclusion from Parliament.
Dr Kelly is being sued for defamation over a tweet he published in 2011 accusing Liberal pollsters Lynton Crosby and Mark Textor of ''push polling''.
Using his MP Twitter account, the former Australian army lawyer tweeted: ''always grate [sic] to hear moralizing from Crosby, Textor, Steal and Gnash. The mob who introduced push polling to Aus.''
Mr Crosby and Mr Textor launched defamation proceedings, which Dr Kelly sought to have struck out on the basis that the Federal Court had no jurisdiction to deal with the case.
But the full Federal Court rejected the claim and awarded costs against him, whereupon Dr Kelly, who has recently been promoted to Minister for Defence Materiel, applied for special leave to have the matter heard by the High Court.
Ten barristers travelled to Canberra to argue the complex jurisdictional point last Friday, but the court knocked back the case without even hearing from defence counsel.
The taxpayer will foot the legal bill for the Commonwealth, ACT and Northern Territory governments, joined as parties to the dispute. Together, those governments had six barristers representing them at the High Court hearing.
Dr Kelly told Fairfax Media the NSW Labor Party had already put $20,000 towards his legal costs but would not pay any more.
Last year, he said: ''In these circumstances it was appropriate to get some support … I am not a rich person, I am not Clive Palmer or Gina Rinehart.''
In his new ministerial role, Dr Kelly receives a salary of $300,116 and, according to the register of parliamentary interests, he and his wife have a mortgage over a home in Karabar, NSW.
His only other assets are an ANZ savings account and the car he shares with his wife.
Dr Kelly would not comment on the costs order, which is due within months, other than to say: ''I can assure you and anyone else there is no risk of this having any bearing on my ability to occupy the seat.''
He said his legal counsel believed he had a strong defence to the substantive defamation action against him, which is yet to be heard.