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Tuesday, 11 October 2016
Page: 1450


Senator FARRELL (South Australia) (15:03): This is the first time I have had the opportunity to congratulate you in your new role, Madam Deputy President.

I move:

That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Attorney-General (Senator Brandis) to questions without notice asked by Opposition senators today relating to the Solicitor-General.

As you may well have noted, all of the questions from the opposition were to Senator Brandis. One of those questions, of course, was a question that I, in fact, asked. Because of the way we have to ask questions in this place, I did not get the opportunity to put both the statements of Senator Brandis about one particular matter directly with those of the Solicitor-General. But I would like to do that in the course of taking note.

I would like to go back to the quote that I made regarding Senator Brandis's comments on 1 December in respect of a citizenship bill that was passed in this parliament. He said:

These changes have been reviewed by the Solicitor-General and he has now advised that they have a good prospect of being upheld by the High Court.

I would like to juxtapose that to the advice that was given by the Solicitor-General 19 days earlier. He said: 'The bill in question reflected new changes that were made without seeking my further advice.' Putting those two statements together, both of them cannot, of course, be right. Both of those statements cannot be right. One of them has to be wrong.

In this place, it is true that we all have an obligation to tell the truth. That is the first obligation. Ministers, I would submit, have an even higher obligation to tell the truth and make sure that nothing they say seeks to mislead or is incorrect. The highest obligation, I would submit to you, Madam Deputy President, is on the Attorney-General—the first law officer of this country. Attorneys-general have special obligations as a result of their training. They have special obligations to this parliament and to the people of Australia. The reality is: both of those statements that I read out a moment ago cannot be correct. One of them has to be wrong. I think what this parliament and what this Senate wants to know is: who is not telling the truth about this matter? It is a very fundamental issue. We have, on the one hand, the first law officer of this country saying one thing about a set of events and, on the other hand, we have the No. 2 law officer, the Solicitor-General, saying something quite fundamentally different. Both of them cannot be right.

What this parliament needs an answer to—I would submit to you, Madam Acting Deputy President—is the answer to the question: who is telling the truth? In one of his answers Senator Brandis said: this is all semantics. It was not an answer to my question. He is saying it is all semantics. I would submit to you, Madam Acting Deputy President, this is not an argument about semantics. There is quite a fundamental difference here. I will just repeat what Senator Brandis said. He said: these changes have been reviewed by the Solicitor-General and he is now advised that they have a good prospect of being upheld by the High Court.

Senator Brandis: Identify the changes you are referring to.

Senator FARRELL: I have referred to it already.

Senator Brandis: Identify the changes.

Senator Cameron: You can't question him.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order!

Senator Cameron: He is not one of your lackeys.

Senator FARRELL: Thank you.

Senator Brandis interjecting

Senator FARRELL: I am giving the speech, Senator Brandis.

Senator Brandis: I'm trying to help you.

Senator FARRELL: I know you are trying to help me, but I do not need your help, Senator Brandis. I do not need your help.

Senator Brandis interjecting

Senator FARRELL: Senator Brandis, the person who needs some help in this debate is you. You are the person who needs some help. Senator Brandis, you are the person who needs some help in this debate. You need some help because—

Senator Cameron: He's slippery.

Senator FARRELL: That may be true. You need some help because there is a fundamental inconsistency between the proposition that you are putting to this Senate and the proposition that— (Time expired)