Senate Inquiry Confirms Cover-Up

Two senior Coalition ministers misled parliament for at least four days so that they could avoid proper scrutiny about the Abbott Government’s handling of a letter from the Lindt Café Siege gunman.

THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP

SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL

SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ARTS

MEMBER FOR ISAACS

 

SENATE INQUIRY CONFIRMS COVER-UP

Two senior Coalition ministers misled parliament for at least four days so that they could avoid proper scrutiny about the Abbott Government’s handling of a letter from the Lindt Café Siege gunman.

In extraordinary evidence to a Senate inquiry today it was revealed that Attorney-General George Brandis’ department had been warned by Prime Minister & Cabinet that a copy of a letter from Man Haron Monis had not been provided to a Joint Federal-NSW inquiry into the siege a full four days before this was disclosed to parliament.

The previous week, Senator Brandis and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told parliament that the letter to the Attorney-General dated 7 October 2015 from Monis seeking advice on contacting “Caliph Ibrahim, the leader of Islamic State” - two months before the siege - had been provided to inquiry headed by the secretary of Mr Abbott’s department, Michael Thawley.

It was not until after Question Time at the end of the parliamentary week on 4 June 2015 that Ms Bishop admitted that she and Senator Brandis had misled parliament.

But AGD deputy secretary Tony Sheehan admitted today that Tony Abbott’s department had told him at 9.30am on Monday 1 June that the letter had not been provided to the review.

In other damning evidence, officials of Senator Brandis’ department admitted that they had not referred the letter to the inquiry because it had appeared on the second page of an excel spreadsheet.

Senator Brandis’ officials were also unable to explain why a press release dated 28 May 2015 from the Attorney-General attacking Labor for asking questions about the letter was removed from his website less than a day after it was first put out.

“This is a dysfunctional Government that is addicted to cover-up and deception,” shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC said.

“It deliberately sat on information that it misled parliament to avoid proper scrutiny of the Government’s incompetence as a part of an outrageous smear on Labor and myself for asking legitimate questions about the letter.”

“While Mr Abbott beats his chest about being tough on national security, his own Government can’t even recognise a terrorist when he writes to the Attorney-General saying he wants to contact ISIS.”

Senator Brandis and Ms Bishop now need to explain why they breached the Mr Abbott’s ministerial ethical standards which require that they “take all reasonable steps to ensure that they do not mislead the public or the Parliament” and correct the record as soon as possible.

 “Today the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet forced the Attorney General’s Department to tell the truth,” Shadow parliamentary secretary to the Leader of the Opposition, Jacinta Collins said.

“That is they knew, beyond doubt, that the Attorney General and the Foreign Minister had misled the house and waited four sitting days to correct the record.“

FRIDAY, 19 JUNE 2015