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Thursday, 16 February 2017
Page: 1104


Senator WATT (Queensland) (09:38): I move:

That the Senate take note of the Attorney-General's explanation.

I am sorry to disappoint the Attorney-General, but Senator Wong is not speaking on this motion. Instead, I am very happy to do so myself. I am a very big fan of the Attorney-General's work, so I am always happy to speak on him. I am not sure about other members of this chamber, but over the Christmas break I certainly reflected on the past year and made a number of New Year's resolutions. I suspect many other people in this chamber did the same thing. But it would appear that there is one person in this chamber who did not make a New Year's resolution to become a better person, and that person is the Attorney-General, Senator Brandis.

Any of us who were here last year in 2016 will remember the series of scandals involving the Attorney-General and the continued contempt that he displayed towards this chamber, towards his role as first law officer and towards the people of Australia in general. Time does not permit me to go through every example, but there were the scandals involving his treatment of the Solicitor-General, his treatment of the president of the Human Rights Commission and his involvement in the Bell litigation scandal. So I really thought that over the Christmas break Senator Brandis would reflect on himself and come back as a different person, determined to improve his behaviour, but it would appear that the answer to that is: no, there was no reflection and there was no resolution to be better.

Only a week or two ago we saw media reports that Senator Brandis has still not complied with an order of the Federal Court of Australia, which he oversees, to produce his diary. So we see continued secrecy and contempt not just for the people but potentially of the court system of Australia in relation to his diary. As of I think earlier this week—possibly even yesterday—he had still not complied with an order of the Senate to produce documents in relation to the Bell litigation. That has finally occurred, and as of last week he had an incredible 205 answers to questions on notice which were still outstanding, some going back as far as the estimates held in February last year, more than 12 months ago. Members on my side will know that I am also not a very big fan of the minister for immigration, Peter Dutton. But I will at least give him credit for the fact that he only has three answers to questions on notice outstanding, in comparison to the Attorney-General's 205.

I do acknowledge that the Attorney-General has now finally tabled some answers to those questions on notice. Of course, that was only in response to the motion that we moved, and you really would not think that the Senate would have to take this step to move a motion to get answers to questions on notice. However, despite the Attorney-General's attempts, there are still a number of questions on notice that senators have asked of him that remain unanswered, most particularly the questions that were asked about the dodgy appointments he made to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal last year. Mysteriously, he still does not want to tell the Senate about the background to those appointments of LNP cronies.

I really would expect better of the first law officer of Australia. It is a role from which we expect the utmost integrity and fulfilment of the law. Unfortunately, this year appears to be a reflection of last year, where we instead have an Attorney-General with complete contempt for the Senate and complete contempt for the law. It is no wonder that his colleagues still continue to talk about how soon it will be before he goes to London.

Question agreed to.