Brandis blames everyone but himself

Senator Brandis’s statement in the Senate today was one of the most remarkable attempts at blame-shifting this Parliament has surely ever seen.

THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP

SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL

SHADOW MINISTER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY

ACTING SHADOW MINISTER FOR JUSTICE

MEMBER FOR ISAACS

BRANDIS BLAMES EVERYONE BUT HIMSELF

 

Senator Brandis’s statement in the Senate today was one of the most remarkable attempts at blame-shifting this Parliament has surely ever seen.

According to Senator Brandis, the Bell litigation mess was the fault of Joe Hockey, West Australian Treasurer Mike Nahan, West Australian Attorney-General Michael Mischin, Christian Porter and Kelly O’Dwyer, but remarkably, somehow he escaped blame himself.

Senator Brandis denied any knowledge of a deal between the Federal Government and WA state government not to challenge state legislation that sought to dud the Commonwealth taxpayer of $300 million.

That deal is confirmed in a letter written by Mr Hockey to Dr Nahan in 29 April 2015 and was confirmed in WA State Parliament shortly after. The WA state government legislation passed in November, and received widespread coverage in the media.

The High Court proceedings also began in November 2015.

Senator Brandis’s pretence that he had no knowledge of the deal until 4 March 2016 stretches belief. If he had not bothered to inquire about the background to a bill that was clearly highly unconstitutional nearly 12 months after it was introduced, he has totally failed in his duties as Attorney-General.

It is not good enough to blame Joe Hockey. Senator Brandis was the one making the key decisions on the government’s actions in the High Court.

Despite talking for 30 minutes in the Senate today, Senator Brandis has still not answered a number of key questions:

  • If Senator Brandis had no objections to the Australian Taxation Office intervening in the case, why was their submission not made until the last date possible?

  • Senator Brandis says advising the ATO not to intervene in the case was “an option” he was considering – how long did he hold this view?

  • What advice did Justin Gleeson give to Senator Brandis on the matter of the ATO intervening? Did Senator Brandis contest this advice?

  • Why didn’t Senator Brandis seek to correct the view of WA ministers that they had a deal with the federal government?

  • What promises did Senator Brandis make to WA ministers about how the court proceedings would be run?

  • Did Senator Brandis verbally instruct Justin Gleeson not to run his winning argument during the High Court hearings?

  • What relation does this matter have to the Legal Services Direction, which stopped Mr Gleeson from giving advice to agencies like the ATO without Brandis’s permission?

It is not just Senator Brandis implicated in this matter. Christian Porter and Kelly O’Dwyer are also up to their necks. If Christian Porter was acting as the WA government’s emissary, why did he not inform Senator Brandis and colleagues of the deal at an earlier date? As minister responsible for the ATO, did Kelly O’Dwyer ever support Senator Brandis’s view that it should not intervene in the case?

It is far too convenient for Senator Brandis to blame Joe Hockey, when he is not in Parliament, let alone the country, to defend himself.

If Senator Brandis thinks he has exonerated himself by today’s statement, nothing could be further from the truth.

MONDAY, 28 NOVEMBER 2016