Solicitor-General Justin Gleeson has resigned after an open conflict with Attorney-General George Brandis, following the latter’s decision to restrict parliament members’ access to the former’s legal advice.
As Junkee’s Osman Faruqi explained, Brandis’s legally-binding decision in May to restrict access meant that “no minister, including the Prime Minister, could seek legal advice [from Gleeson] without going through Brandis”.
Gleeson said he had been left out of the discussions surrounding public matters such as anti-terror legislation and same-sex marriage. Brandis has been reported seeking advice on same-sex marriage from former Solicitor-General David Bennett after rejecting Gleeson’s advice.
The outgoing chief legal officer also said his resignation does not indicate a backtrack from “any position I have taken in relation to matters of controversy between us”.
“It is not Mr Gleeson who should have resigned today – it is Senator Brandis,” Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said. “The Commonwealth has lost from its service a great legal mind and one of the most experienced constitutional lawyers in this country as its most senior legal adviser.”
“It’s imperative that we have somebody of absolute integrity [for the Solicitor-General role], it’s imperative that we have somebody who is not afraid to give advice which will be potentially distasteful to the government of the day,” Law Council of Australia president, Stuart Clark said.
“We had that person in Justin Gleeson.”