Brandis Departs From Reality

Monday’s pre-election legal affairs debate confirmed what many in the Australian legal community have believed for some time – that Senator Brandis is living in a world all of his own where he has served a perfect three years as Attorney-General.

THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP
SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL
SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ARTS
MEMBER FOR ISAACS

BRANDIS DEPARTS FROM REALITY

Monday’s pre-election legal affairs debate confirmed what many in the Australian legal community have believed for some time – that Senator Brandis is living in a world all of his own where he has served a perfect three years as Attorney-General.

Astoundingly, Senator Brandis somehow believes that the opposition to so many of his decisions amounts only to “boutique controversies”.

"Of course there have been a couple of boutique controversies but they have been of the kind that gets more law school common rooms excited rather than things that make a difference to the lives of ordinary Australians."

George Brandis, Pre-Election Legal Affairs Debate, 20 June 2016

This is a shocking departure from reality and a wilful ignorance of Senator Brandis’s legacy as Attorney-General.

Some of Senator Brandis’s disastrous decisions as Attorney-General include:

  • Cutting $19 million from Community Legal Centres and putting their further existence in doubt with a 30 per cent funding cut from 1 July 2017.
  • Removing all Commonwealth funding from Environment Defenders Offices across the country.
  • Cutting the funding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services by $13 million while refusing to meet with their leaders.
  • Removing $3 million from Family Violence Legal Prevention Services and shifting them into the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, leaving them with significant funding uncertainty.
  • Leaving courts around the country without a full complement of judges, creating chaos and delays for vulnerable Australians.
  • Attacking Professor Gillian Triggs simply for doing her job as President of the Human Rights Commission in holding the government to account - which resulted in him being censured by the Australian Senate.
  • Attempting to destroy the racial vilification laws that have protected minorities and served our nation well for over twenty years. This included his now-infamous declaration to the Senate that “people do have a right to be bigots you know”.
  • Threatening the integrity of our justice system by undermining the Solicitor-General as an independent source of legal advice for government.
  • Gagging community legal organisations from engaging in public debate and advocacy.

The Attorney-General of our nation has a special responsibility to act with the utmost integrity and defend the rule of law.

Senator Brandis has failed to fulfil this fundamental responsibility.

He is an Attorney-General who has pursued partisan, ideological vanity projects at the expense of his true responsibilities. He has instead chosen to undermine access to justice and attack independent office-holders who dare to disagree with him.

It is clear from Senator Brandis’s appalling behaviour through his time in office that Senator Brandis has contempt for the rule of law and the legal system he is charged with the responsibility to defend.

An Attorney-General who attacks rather than defends the integrity of our legal system is unfit to hold the office of the First Law Officer of Australia.

Mr Turnbull has vowed to keep his current ministry in place if he wins the election.

Our country cannot afford another three years of Senator Brandis and his reckless attitude to his core responsibilities, including adequate funding for access to justice.   

Changing the Attorney-General means changing the Government, and a vote for Labor on July 2.

TUESDAY, 21 JUNE 2016