The federal government has accused Labor of playing politics over the Lindt cafe siege by attacking the Coalition for not acting on letters from gunman Man Haron Monis, even though former Prime Minister Julia Gillard had also received letters.
Labor has questioned the government on why security agencies did not act when Monis, who was on bail for serious offences, wrote letters to Attorney-General George Brandis nine weeks before he stormed the Sydney cafe last December.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told parliament on Thursday, in answer to a question from shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, that letters had also been received by him and Ms Gillard.
“He is seeking to make political capital out of a national tragedy,” she said.
“I find it utterly deplorable.”
Mr Dreyfus asked a series of questions about whether the government had changed protocols in ministerial offices following the national terror alert level being raised to its highest in September last year.
Ms Bishop said the protocol for handling letters was the same as that which operated under Mr Dreyfus when he was Attorney-General.
Senator Brandis said the letter had not come to his attention and had been handled by his department.
“Those procedures did not identify anything in the letter as raising concerns,” he said.
Department aide Karen Horsfall, who responded to the letter, told Monis they did not provide legal advice to members of the public and could not address his specific question about the legality of corresponding with Caliph Ibrahim, the Islamic State leader.
Mr Dreyfus said the use of the term Caliph Ibrahim should have sounded alarm bells, as it was used only by extremists.
Senator Brandis said ASIO director-general Duncan Lewis had confirmed that because the letter was a request for legal advice, it seemed appropriate to have been referred to the department.
He told a Senate committee on Wednesday department staff did not consider the letter threatening.
Government whip Andrew Nikolic was thrown out of parliament when he accused Mr Dreyfus of being a “disgrace” for not stopping Monis from writing abusive letters to the families of dead Australian soldiers.