Brandis's claims of ignorance on Bell stretch credibility

It has been confirmed today that Senator Brandis’s own office sought a briefing on the matter of the Bell Group liquidation as far back as mid-2015 - making the Attorney-General’s claims that he knew nothing of the matter until March 2016 utterly unbelievable.

THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP

SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL

SHADOW MINISTER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY

MEMBER FOR ISAACS

BRANDIS’S CLAIMS OF IGNORANCE ON BELL STRETCH CREDIBILITY 

It has been confirmed today that Senator Brandis’s own office sought a briefing on the matter of the Bell Group liquidation as far back as mid-2015 - making the Attorney-General’s claims that he knew nothing of the matter until March 2016 utterly unbelievable.

The Australian Taxation Office has given evidence that the Attorney-General’s own office proactively sought a briefing on 5 June 2015 about the implications of a WA state bill that sought to deny the Commonwealth taxpayer of as much as $1.8 billion in revenue.

Moreover, Secretary of the Attorney-General’s own Department Chris Moraitis confirmed that the Attorney-General’s office had been issued a notice inviting the Commonwealth to intervene in the High Court case contesting the WA legislation, known as a Section 78B notice, on 1 December 2015. Mr Moraitis also confirmed that on 28 January 2016 the Attorney-General’s office was provided a written briefing on the question of intervention.

This is in stark contrast to Senator Brandis’s statement to the Senate on 28 November that:

“The first personal involvement I recall having in the matter was on 3 March this year”

It is beyond belief that, with his own office having sought a brief nearly a year earlier, that Senator Brandis would not have been in the loop until March 2016.

But we know that Senator Brandis has a record of misleading the Senate, so we should not be surprised if he has done so again.

The inquiry also heard that the offices of Mathias Cormann as Minister for Finance and Josh Frydenberg as former Assistant Treasurer were given briefings well before March 2016. This mess goes wider than just Senator Brandis, and Labor will keep pushing to get to the bottom of it.

It is also unclear whether Senator Brandis’s office requested a formal direction to be drafted that would have tried to stop the Australian Taxation Office from intervening in the case – officials from the Attorney-General’s Department refused to answer questions on this subject at the hearing, and would only say the Attorney-General himself had not requested a direction be drafted.

Had Senator Brandis and the West Australian Liberals succeeded in letting the Act passed by the West Australian Parliament stand uncontested, the Commonwealth taxpayer could have been deprived of as much as $1.8 billion according to today’s testimony from the Australian Taxation Office.

This is as serious as it gets. Senator Brandis will not get away with blaming this shocking dirty deal on Joe Hockey. He and other ministers are clearly up to their necks and Prime Minister Turnbull would have already asked for his resignation, if he had any backbone left.

WEDNESDAY, 7 DECEMBER 2016