Senate Inquiry Into Monis Letter

An urgent Senate inquiry will be held into the Abbott Government’s handling of a letter to Attorney-General George Brandis from the Lindt Cafe siege gunman Man Haron Monis.

THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP

SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL

SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ARTS

MEMBER FOR ISAACS

 

 SENATE INQUIRY INTO MONIS LETTER

 

An urgent Senate inquiry will be held into the Abbott Government’s handling of a letter to Attorney-General George Brandis from the Lindt Cafe siege gunman Man Haron Monis.

Today, the Senate voted 34-24 to establish an inquiry by the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee into the letter sent to Senator Brandis only months before the siege.

Given the matters of national significance that need to be addressed, the inquiry will report by next Thursday, 25 June 2015.

Despite attempts by Senator Brandis and Liberal National Party Senator Ian MacDonald to block the inquiry, the Greens and all eight cross-bench senators supported Labor’s proposed inquiry. This appears to be the first time all cross-benchers have voted together, reflecting the seriousness of this matter, and the Senate’s lack of confidence in the Attorney-General.

There are obvious concerns about the Attorney-General’s and Government’s initial handling of this letter, the failure to provide the letter to the joint Federal-NSW inquiry into the siege, and the subsequent false statements to both the Senate and to the House of Representatives with respect to that failure.

To date, Senator Brandis and the Prime Minister have failed to provide an adequate explanation as to why the letter from Monis dated 7 October 2015 did not raise a red flag in the Attorney-General’s office or department.

The letter sought advice on how to contact “Caliph Ibrahim, the leader of Islamic State” and was sent less than a month after the national threat level was raised to its highest ever level, but was not referred to law enforcement agencies.

Senator Brandis and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop then misled Parliament about whether this letter was referred to a joint Federal-NSW inquiry into the siege and failed to correct the record for a week.

“This is an inquiry the Abbott Government did not want to have but the Australian public deserve a  better explanation about this matter of national security,” Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC said.

“The Attorney-General as the chief national security minister is responsible for the procedures to detect national security threats in his own office, in his own department and across government.”

“The inquiry will look into whether procedures can be improved within government to raise a red flag on this letter at a time of the highest ever threat level.”

TUESDAY, 16 JUNE 2015

 

 

TERMS OF REFERENCE

 

The handling of a letter sent by Man Haron Monis to the Attorney-General dated 7 October 2014, and the evidence provided during the Budget Estimates, including the subsequent correction of that evidence; with particular reference to:

(a) the details of the internal inquiry conducted by the Secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department, Mr Chris Moraitis, following the discovery that incorrect evidence had been provided and any subsequent changes made to administrative practices between the departnent and the Attorney-General's office;

(b) the consideration given by the Joint Commonwealth and New South Wales review team to the correspondence sent by Man Haron Monis to various members of Parliament and other relevant documents and the basis for the assertion by Mr Thawley that the correspondence would make no difference to the findings of the review; and

(c) what, if any, changes were made to procedures for the handling of incoming correspondence to the Attorney-General’s Department and the Attorney-General’s Office following the raising of the National Terrorism Public Alert level to ‘High’ on 12 September 2014.