Ministers defended on the taxpayer dollar

Attorney-General George Brandis’s revelation in Senate Question Time today that he personally authorised the use of taxpayer dollars to defend three government ministers in court on a contempt matter is shocking.

THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP

SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL
SHADOW MINISTER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY
MEMBER FOR ISAACS

 

MINISTERS DEFENDED ON THE TAXPAYER DOLLAR 

Attorney-General George Brandis’s revelation in Senate Question Time today that he personally authorised the use of taxpayer dollars to defend three government ministers in court on a contempt matter is shocking.

The three ministers – Greg Hunt, Alan Tudge and Michael Sukkar – made comments to a newspaper on a matter that had nothing to do with their respective portfolios. There is absolutely no justification for the Solicitor-General to be made available to defend them in court at no personal cost.

In particular, there is a rich irony in Alan Tudge – the minister currently trying to claw back welfare payments from desperate people in the name of “fiscal responsibility” – looking to the taxpayer to pay his legal costs.

Thanks to this government’s cuts, it is difficult for Australians in the most dire need to get any kind of legal representation paid by the taxpayer, even if they cannot afford it themselves. But Senator Brandis has no qualms in offering the government’s most senior barrister for free to MPs who earn well over $200,000 a year.

The cost to the public purse in deploying the Solicitor-General to the Supreme Court of Victoria tomorrow will no doubt be upwards of ten thousand dollars. No doubt Mr Stephen Donaghue SC and his team will require flights and accommodation, as well as the assistance of the Australian Government Solicitor in the matter.

Senator Brandis should know better. But then, he had no qualms about employing a senior silk and junior barrister on the taxpayer dollar to pursue his failed appeal to keep his diary secret.

Senator Brandis should be defending the judiciary rather than authorising the use of taxpayer dollars to defend those who attack it.

THURSDAY, 15 MAY 2017