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Tuesday, 11 October 2016
Page: 1440

Attorney-General


Senator WATT (Queensland) (14:28): My question is to the Attorney-General, Senator Brandis. I refer to the evidence of the former Solicitor-General, Dr David Bennett, to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee inquiry into consultations prior to the making of directions concerning opinions of the Solicitor-General. Can the Attorney-General confirm that a member of his staff was dispatched to Sydney to sit next to Dr Bennett while he was giving evidence to the Senate committee via telephone?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:28): Yes, that is right, Senator, and let me explain why. There were certain privileged documents that may have come into issue and it was necessary, therefore, for Dr Bennett to know when the government proposed to claim privilege in relation to the documents.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Watt, a supplementary question?



Senator WATT (Queensland) (14:29): Thank you, Mr President. Why did the Attorney-General feel it was necessary to have a member of his staff stand over Dr Bennett as he gave evidence to the Senate committee? What was the Attorney-General worried Dr Bennett would say?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:29): Surely, Senator Watt, you can do better than that. A member of my staff was present when Dr Bennett gave evidence by teleconference for the reason I just explained: certain privilege documents were in issue and, in those circumstances, it was necessary for Dr Bennett to know if and when the government proposed to claim privilege in relation to any such document.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Watt, a final supplementary question?



Senator WATT (Queensland) (14:30): Can the Attorney-General assure the Senate that he has not sought to stand over other witnesses to the Senate inquiry, including the deputy secretary of his own department?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:30): Senator Watt, I have been a barrister for 33 years and I have never stood over a witness in my life.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Carr and Senator Macdonald.