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Backdown on Friday sittings saved Government from High Court humiliation.



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Fri, 7th March 2008 BACKDOWN ON FRIDAY SITTINGS SAVED GOVERNMENT FROM HIGH COURT HUMILIATION

Senator the Hon George Brandis SC Shadow Attorney-General

The Hon Christopher Pyne MP Shadow Minister for Justice & Border Protection Shadow Minister Assisting the Shadow Minister for Immigration & Citizenship

Joint Release.

The Rudd Government's backdown on Friday sittings was a last-minute capitulation to avoid a humiliating defeat in the High Court, the Shadow Attorney-General, Senator George Brandis, and the Shadow Minister for Justice and Border Protection, Christopher Pyne, said today.

Senator Brandis and Mr Pyne confirmed that they had obtained an Opinion from Australia's most senior silk, Tom Hughes QC, which supported their contention that the Friday sittings, with no division or quorum arrangements, were in violation of the Constitution. S. 39 of the Constitution requires the presence of a quorum for a valid sitting of the House of Representatives. Mr Hughes' advice supported the Shadow Ministers' contention that, by prohibiting quorum calls and so allowing the House to sit inquorate, the arrangements were unconstitutional.

The Shadow Ministers also confirmed that they had been planning to launch a High Court challenge to the Friday sittings, in which Mr Pyne would have been the plaintiff. "Christopher Pyne, Malcolm Turnbull and I discussed the matter throughout the week. Mr Hughes had agreed to accept the brief to test the issue in the High Court. Fortunately, we will not now have to wait for the case of Pyne -v- Jenkins to establish what we already knew: that Friday sittings without quorum arrangements were never anything but a political stunt," Senator Brandis said.

Senator Brandis and Mr Pyne called on the Government now to release the suppressed legal advice which it had obtained, concerning the constitutionality of Friday sittings. "If the Government proceeded with the Friday sitting on 22 February, knowing that there was significant doubt about its constitutionality, it wilfully wasted more than a million dollars of taxpayers' money."