Tuesday, 11 October 2016
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Attorney-General, Senator Brandis. I refer to the evidence of the former Solicitor-General, Dr David Bennett, to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee inquiry into consultations prior to the making of directions concerning opinions of the Solicitor-General. Can the Attorney-General confirm that a member of his staff was dispatched to Sydney to sit next to Dr Bennett while he was giving evidence to the Senate committee via telephone?
Yes, that is right, Senator, and let me explain why. There were certain privileged documents that may have come into issue and it was necessary, therefore, for Dr Bennett to know when the government proposed to claim privilege in relation to the documents.
Thank you, Mr President. Why did the Attorney-General feel it was necessary to have a member of his staff stand over Dr Bennett as he gave evidence to the Senate committee? What was the Attorney-General worried Dr Bennett would say?
Surely, Senator Watt, you can do better than that. A member of my staff was present when Dr Bennett gave evidence by teleconference for the reason I just explained: certain privilege documents were in issue and, in those circumstances, it was necessary for Dr Bennett to know if and when the government proposed to claim privilege in relation to any such document.
Honourable senators interjecting—