Tuesday, 11 October 2016
Questions without Notice
Thank you, Senator Brandis, for those kind words. I am not sure how long it is going last—I will put the next question! I am pleased to say that, not only do I have friends on that side, I also have an awful lot of friends on this side.
My question is to the Attorney-General, Senator Brandis. I refer to the Attorney-General's statement in the Senate on 1 December 2015, during the debate on the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015, in which he said:
These changes have been reviewed by the Solicitor-General and he has now advised that they have a good prospect of being upheld by the High Court.
Does the Attorney-General agree that the assurance from him led senators in this place to believe that the bill, as introduced, has been reviewed by the Solicitor-General?
Thank you, Senator Farrell. I do remember the statement and I stand by it. As you will recall, the bill went through many iterations. The Solicitor-General provided advice, both written and orally, at various times throughout and his views informed the drafting of the bill. As you know, the government does not release its legal advice. I did make the statement to the Senate that you have quoted and I stand by it.
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I refer to the Solicitor-General's letter to the Attorney-General dated 12 November 2015, in which he said that the bill in question 'reflected new changes that were made without seeking my further advice' and, further, that the statements about the Solicitor-General having advised on the bill were inaccurate. How does the Attorney-General reconcile his unqualified assurance to the Senate with the written advice from the Solicitor-General 19 days earlier?
As I said in answer to your primary question, this bill evolved through many iterations. The Solicitor-General was involved. From time to time during the course of those iterations, I was asked questions in relation to the Solicitor-General's involvement and I acquainted those who inquired of me what it was. That includes the statement that you have quoted, which I stand by.