Attorney-General George Brandis is under fire amid accusations he mislead Parliament over a controversial directive to the commonwealth solicitor-general.
Mr Brandis assured the Senate in September that he had consulted Commonwealth Solicitor-General Justin Gleeson over new guidelines ruling that no one in government, including the prime minister, could seek the Mr Gleeson’s advice without Mr Brandis’s permission.
However, in a submission to a Senate inquiry released on Wednesday, Mr Gleeson rejected that claim.
“At no time at that meeting did the attorney-general indicate he was considering issuing a legally binding direction concerning the performance of the functions of the solicitor general or a requirement that a Commonwealth person of body could only approach the solicitor general after receiving the attorney-general’s advance approval,” he wrote.
Speaking to Fran Kelly on ABC radio on Thursday morning, Mr Brandis said notes were taken in a meeting by two people, showing he notified Mr Gleeson of the new requirement.
“The issue was discussed by us for about half an hour,” Mr Brandis said. “We discussed [section] 12 B of the Law Officers Act as the notes of the meeting show and I invited the solicitor general to put to me in writing what he proposed, and in March of this year, he did so and I took that into account as well.”
“We have the same arrangement although the request goes to the Attorney-General’s office directly from the department or agency seeking the advice, rather than directly to the Solicitor-General, who then seeks the Attorney-General’s consent.”
Shadow attorney general Mark Dreyfus pounced on the claims and said as the Commonwealth’s first law officer, the attorney general needed to be beyond reproach when it came to matters of integrity.
“It is clear that in lying to the Australian parliament and the Australian people that Senator Brandis has failed in his duties,” Mr Dreyfus said in a statement.
“Senator Brandis has attempted this power grab and then covered it up.”
Mr Dreyfus reiterated his call that Mr Brandis should resign.
This is not the first time Mr Brandis has been embroiled in controversy following claims he did not consult key stakeholders before making decisions.
Mr Brandis recently lost a legal battle with Mr Dreyfus, after the shadow attorney general wanted access to the attorney general’s diary to see whether he consulted the arts community before cuts to the sector’s funding.
– with AAP