Committee Report: Brandis a danger to the rule of law

The final report delivered today by the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee into the gross maltreatment of former Solicitor-General Justin Gleeson has shown, once again, that Senator Brandis is not fit to hold the office of Attorney-General.

THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP

SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL

SHADOW MINISTER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY

ACTING SHADOW MINISTER FOR JUSTICE

MEMBER FOR ISAACS

COMMITTEE REPORT: BRANDIS A DANGER TO THE RULE OF LAW

The final report delivered today by the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee into the gross maltreatment of former Solicitor-General Justin Gleeson has shown, once again, that Senator Brandis is not fit to hold the office of Attorney-General.

The Committee has delivered a scathing judgement on Senator Brandis – the first law officer of this country – for endangering the rule of law in Australia.

It found the Attorney-General acted improperly in his introduction of the amended Legal Services Direction which so limited Mr Gleeson’s role, and misled the Senate by stating he had in fact consulted the Solicitor-General on the changes. It found Senator Brandis then relied on a “fanciful definition” of consultation in an attempt to cover his tracks.

Let’s be clear – the only definition of consultation that makes sense in this situation is Senator Brandis’s own. He never told Mr Gleeson about the changes he intended to make which so drastically limited the Solicitor-General’s independence and destroyed his ability to do his job.

Senator Brandis has lied to the Senate in a written statement that said he did in fact consult Mr Gleeson, knowing this not to be true.

Instead of arguing the Attorney-General’s case in the Senate this afternoon, Senator Ian MacDonald spent the best part of 10 minutes attacking Mr Gleeson. That tells you all you need to know about how this government treats independent statutory office holders who are brave enough to disagree with it.

It is deeply unfortunate that Senator Brandis forced Mr Gleeson out of his role, at a time when the government is bringing two landmark cases to the High Court.

The Committee’s report calls on Senator Brandis to provide a full response to its findings within three sitting days. One can only hope he uses this as an opportunity to come clean about his errors and withdraw the amended Legal Services Direction.

If he does not, Labor’s focus now will be to ensure the amended Legal Services Direction is disallowed as soon as possible. We will also consider the Committee’s recommendation to censure the Attorney-General for his actions.

Senator Brandis’s incompetence cannot be allowed to compromise the role of a new Solicitor-General and the continued, unfettered operation of rule of law in this country.

Prime Minister Turnbull must sack this Attorney-General before he has a chance to do any more damage.

TUESDAY, 8 NOVEMBER 2016