George Brandis Hits New Low

George Brandis’s unprecedented attack on the independence of the Solicitor-General, the second law officer of this country, should be deeply shocking to anyone who cares about the integrity of Australia’s legal system.

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

GEORGE BRANDIS HITS NEW LOW

George Brandis’s unprecedented attack on the independence of the Solicitor-General, the second law officer of this country, should be deeply shocking to anyone who cares about the integrity of Australia’s legal system.

According to reports in today’s Australian Financial Review, Senator Brandis deliberately blocked Solicitor-General Justin Gleeson from being told that significant changes were being made to his ability to give independent legal advice to any arm of Government.

He then told Parliament in an official document that Mr Gleeson had in fact been consulted – if today’s reports are true, then Senator Brandis has misled the Parliament.

Senator Brandis’s defence that he consulted with Mr Gleeson in November on changes that occurred in May clearly does not hold water.

Senator Brandis has treated the office of the Solicitor-General and its esteemed office-holder Mr Gleeson with contempt. The changes made just days before the caretaker period began mean that Senator Brandis, as a politician, gets to decide whether the Solicitor-General is able to give legal advice in any circumstance where it is requested.

This could have serious and worrying implications in a situation where the Solicitor-General is requested to advise on the legality of a decision the government has taken, of which Senator Brandis is a part. In a constitutional crisis, the Governor-General would have to seek George Brandis’s permission before talking to the Solicitor-General. This is clearly unacceptable.

Senator Brandis has failed his duty to uphold good governance and the integrity of our legal system. He has potentially reached a new low of deliberately misleading the Parliament.

Senator Brandis must prove beyond doubt that this is not the case. An Attorney-General is meant to be above reproach when it comes to following laws, rules, and procedures. He or she is meant to defend Australia’s legal system and promote good governance, not undermine both.

Sadly, this is just the latest in a pattern of behavior from Senator Brandis. His cack-handed attempts to undermine racial discrimination law, his declaration that “people have a right to be bigots” and his appalling attacks on Gillian Triggs and the Human Rights Commission, resulting in a successful censure motion against him in the Senate, have already left his integrity at a low ebb.

His attack on the Solicitor-General and the proper functioning of our democracy should be the final straw. He is not fit to be our country’s Attorney-General. Australia deserves better.

FRIDAY, 17 JUNE 2016