The second-highest law officer in Australia has publicly criticised Federal Attorney-General George Brandis, claiming he was not consulted on marriage equality and citizenship laws.
Solicitor-general Justin Gleeson SC made the revelation in a submission to a senate inquiry, which is examining a direction blocking the solicitor-general from providing legal advice to anyone in the government without the permission of the Attorney-General.
Labor has accused Senator Brandis of misleading parliament on the issue and has called for him to resign.
Senator Brandis said he consulted Mr Gleeson on the direction during a meeting in November 2015.
But Mr Gleeson said there was no consultation until it was issued by Senator Brandis in May this year.
“Nothing of that kind was discussed at that meeting,” Mr Gleeson said in the submission to the senate, who said he had also taken unsuccessful steps to have the direction withdrawn.
The meeting in November was called to address concerns by Mr Gleeson that his work had been “hampered”, accusing the government of failing to properly consult him on a number of contentious issues.
It includes laws that would see the Australian citizenship stripped from dual nationals if they are convicted of terrorism offences, as well as changes involving same-sex marriage.
In the letter from November, Mr Gleeson said there needed to be greater coordination between the government and his office and expressed concern about the “accurate public representation” of his advice.
In a statement to the inquiry, Senator Brandis said he acted appropriately over the direction, and is adamant the issue was discussed during the November meeting.
“The solicitor-general was consulted on the ‘[p]rocess for seeking … solicitor-general advice in significant matters’,” the statement read.
“The solicitor-general was consulted orally at the meeting of 30 November, and he was invited to provide written suggestions.
“I considered that this consultation was appropriate and sufficient for the purposes of S17 of the Legislation Act.”
Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said Senator Brandis should step down as Attorney-General, accusing him of a “power grab” against a figure who provides independent legal advice.
“Senator Brandis has misled the Australian parliament and lied to the Australian people. He has no choice but to resign,” Mr Dreyfus said in a statement.
“If Senator Brandis does not resign, then Mr Turnbull must show some leadership and sack Senator Brandis.”