'Discredited' Attorney-General George Brandis must quit, says legal advocacy group

Attorney-General George Brandis at the Senate committee hearing. Photo: Andrew Meares
Attorney-General George Brandis at the Senate committee hearing. Photo: Andrew Meares
Justin Gleeson has resigned his post as the government's chief legal adviser. Photo: Andrew Meares

Justin Gleeson has resigned his post as the government's chief legal adviser. Photo: Andrew Meares

Attorney-General George Brandis has "crossed a key line of integrity" and should quit following the resignation of Solicitor-General Justin Gleeson, according to the Australian Lawyers Alliance.

As Labor seeks to maintain pressure on Senator Brandis, the alliance says the Attorney-General's treatment of Mr Gleeson and his subsequent departure are unprecedented in the century-long history of the position.

"There is a compelling public interest in having the solicitor-general as an independent statutory counsel to government," said Tony Kenyon, the national president of the prominent legal advocacy association. "A core purpose of the position is to provide frank and fearless advice to government.

"Senator Brandis' actions flagrantly ignore this, and bring discredit on his position as Attorney-General."

Mr Kenyon said the Attorney-General's order requiring other members of the government and department secretaries to seek permission before seeking the solicitor-general's opinion was a "particularly gross infringement" on the position's independence.

"Senator Brandis has not shown the requisite measure of integrity required of an attorney-general, and we would call on the Prime Minister to remove Mr Brandis from that position," Mr Kenyon, also a personal injury lawyer with Labor-aligned firm Slater and Gordon, said.

The left-leaning ALA has been consistently critical of the government's immigration policies and national security reforms.

Various legal figures and former solicitor-generals have questioned the government's conduct toward Mr Gleeson, and Labor is demanding the appointment of his replacement be overseen by an independent panel, arguing Senator Brandis cannot be trusted.

The outgoing Solicitor-General has refused to answer 120 follow up questions from a Liberal senator stemming from the dramatic Senate hearing last week.

Labor has sought to link the Gleeson imbroglio with two other high-profile cases of the government clashing with public servants, arguing that Coalition ministers cannot accept criticism.

The opposition has highlighted the hostile relationship with Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs and the sacking of former Agriculture Department secretary Paul Grimes, who questioned Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce's "integrity".

The government has accused Labor – which has also called for Senator Brandis to resign – of politicising the most recent dispute and being a contributing factor to Mr Gleeson's departure.

This story 'Discredited' Attorney-General George Brandis must quit, says legal advocacy group first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.