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Tuesday, 20 March 2012
Page: 2286

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (15:54): I have been advised for as long as I have been in this place never to treat anything that Senator Brown says as being said in good faith, but this is a very shocking example of how true that advice has been. I recused myself from an inquiry concerning serious allegations against him and Senator Christine Milne freely and of my own volition when it was drawn to my attention by Senator David Johnston that Senator Brown had made a complaint in this chamber about my participation. I thought, having reflected on the matter and having reflected on my knowledge of the legal principles, that the complaint was fairly made. That is a fact. And if you can controvert that, Senator Brown—

Senator Bob Brown: What a farrago!

Senator BRANDIS: you are welcome to, but you are calling me a liar and I am not a liar. My first awareness—

Senator Bob Brown: Mr Deputy President, on a point of order: I will not allow that to stay on the record. I did not call him a liar. He called me a liar and had to withdraw.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: You have no point of order, Senator Brown. Senator Brandis, you have the call and I ask you to direct your comments to the chair.

Senator BRANDIS: Let me state it directly for the record, which Senator Brown has asserted falsely to be otherwise. I recused myself from that hearing by a letter written on 10 February after a decision I made on 9 February, having been told the previous day, 8 February, that the day before that, 7 February, Senator Brown had made a complaint in this chamber. That was the first I became aware of Senator Brown's assertion that I ought not to serve on the committee.

The statement that Senator Brown has made that I knew 2½ months before is utterly, utterly, false. The statement that Senator Brown made that I knew about Mr Merkel's letter is utterly, utterly, false. I did not read Mr Merkel's letter, and I have not read it to this day, because I did not need the letter to be able to make the decision I made because I am well acquainted with the legal principles and I applied them in my own case.

The statement that I ought to have excused or recused myself at an earlier time is also utterly false. The committee had not proceeded upon the consideration of the reference and I was unaware of any matters in relation to what Senator Brown had been saying until they were drawn to my attention by Senator David Johnston for the first time on 8 February 2012. As I have said in my personal explanation I recused myself, after reflecting on the matter overnight, effectively at once. Senator Brown's assertion that the situation was otherwise, based on absolutely no evidence whatsoever but that can only be construed as an assertion that I have not been telling the truth to this Senate, is a deep outrage and he ought to withdraw it and be ashamed of himself.