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Tuesday, 11 October 2016
Page: 1435

Attorney-General


Senator GALLAGHER (Australian Capital TerritoryManager of Opposition Business in the Senate) (14:11): My question is to the Attorney-General, Senator Brandis. On what date was the Solicitor-General first made aware of the Attorney-General's intention to make the Legal Services Amendment (Solicitor-General Opinions) Direction 2016 and, specifically, when did the Attorney-General consult the Solicitor-General on inserting the new paragraph (10B)?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:11): I would have to check the precise date, but it was, as I said in response to a question yesterday, in 2016.

Senator Wong interjecting

Senator BRANDIS: I said that yesterday, Senator Wong. It was in 2016. As I sad to you yesterday, I was approached by the Solicitor-General at the end of 2015 for a meeting to discuss the issue. We had that meeting on 30 November, during the course of which I consulted the Solicitor-General and I also invited the Solicitor-General to put in writing his ideas, which he did some 14 weeks later in a document I received in March 2016. On the basis of both what had been said at the meeting of 30 November and what had been put to me in writing in the March 2016 document, I made certain decisions, I took certain advice from my department, an instrument was issued and the Solicitor-General was given a copy of it.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Gallagher, a supplementary question?




Senator GALLAGHER (Australian Capital TerritoryManager of Opposition Business in the Senate) (14:12): I look forward to the Attorney-General coming back with that date. Was the Solicitor-General provided a copy of the direction before it was tabled in the Senate on 4 May 2016? If so, when? Was the Solicitor-General provided an opportunity to provide feedback and comment on that specific direction?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:13): I will check the date in response to your first question. In relation to the second question, I considered that, for reasons I have explained several times now and referred to at length in the statement that I have given the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee, I had thoroughly consulted the Solicitor-General at the time I made the instrument. That is what I told the Senate, and I think, Senator Gallagher, if I may say so, it is very obvious from the questions that were asked of me in this chamber yesterday and the question you have just asked that what this comes down to is a semantic argument about the meaning of the word 'consult'.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Gallagher, final supplementary question.



Senator GALLAGHER (Australian Capital TerritoryManager of Opposition Business in the Senate) (14:14): We now know that the Attorney-General did not discuss the making of the direction before it was made, did not provide a copy of the direction before it was made and did not allow an opportunity to provide feedback before it was made. Doesn't this prove that Australia has an Attorney-General who is slippery with the facts?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:14): My attention has been drawn to paragraph 24 of my written statement to the committee, so let me read it to you:

By 20 April 2016, I had concluded that the Guidance Note did require amendment and that a new Direction should also be issued to address the issues raised by the Solicitor-General. Two days previously, of course, it had become clear that both Houses of Parliament would be dissolved in early May, prior to the Solicitor-General's first available appointment time.

The previous paragraph of the statement indicates that in early April I approached the office of the Solicitor-General for another meeting.

Taking into account the Solicitor-General's proposals, draft versions of a new Guidance Note and corresponding Direction were prepared.