Senate Inquiry into George Brandis's attack on the Solicitor-General

The Senate has today voted by a substantial majority to establish an inquiry into Senator George Brandis’s appalling attack on the independence of the Solicitor-General.

THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP

SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL

SHADOW MINISTER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY

ACTING SHADOW MINISTER FOR JUSTICE

MEMBER FOR ISAACS

SENATE INQUIRY INTO GEORGE BRANDIS’S ATTACK ON THE SOLICITOR-GENERAL

The Senate has today voted by a substantial majority to establish an inquiry into Senator George Brandis’s appalling attack on the independence of the Solicitor-General.

Days before the election was called in May and under the cover of the Federal Budget, Senator Brandis tried to sneak through a shocking and unprecedented change to the Solicitor-General’s role. The changes mean that the Solicitor-General, Justin Gleeson, can only respond to requests for legal advice from within government or government agencies if he receives Senator Brandis’s permission first.

This effectively destroyed the independence of the Solicitor-General, as the apolitical second law officer of this country, and was a bald power-grab by Senator Brandis. The Solicitor-General exists in order to be independent of the government of the day, not to be subject to its orders.

Moreover, according to reports in the Australian Financial Review, Senator Brandis did not consult with Mr Gleeson before making the change, despite telling Parliament that he did. If true, this would add to his record as the first sitting Attorney-General in decades to have a successful censure motion moved against him.

This inquiry will seek to establish the true course of events in the lead-up to Senator Brandis’s power-grab in May and determine whether Senator Brandis did in fact mislead the Senate on the nature of his consultation.

It is a victory for transparency and good government, and I thank the crossbench Senators who voted in its favour.

THURSDAY, 15 SEPTEMBER 2016