Australian politics has had a tumultuous start to the week, with shocking resignations and scandalous revelations – oh, and let’s not rule out a Tony Abbott comeback either …
Australia’s 2IC lawyer resigns
Solicitor-General Justin Gleeson, SC, yesterday notified the Government of his intention to resign, ending a long-running spat between the country’s two most senior lawyers and further fuelling the fire under Attorney-General George Brandis’s hot seat.
Mr Gleeson wrote a scornful letter stating that his relationship with Mr Brandis was “irretrievably broken”, but he was not backing down from “any position I have taken in relation to matters of controversy between us”.
Mr Gleeson also said he flatly rejects “absolutely each and every attack and insinuation that has been made in recent times upon me personally, upon my office, [or] by government members of Parliament”.
The pair have been at odds over a directive from Senator Brandis that prevented all ministers, including the PM, from seeking legal advice without his written approval. Mr Gleeson claimed that Mr Brandis never consulted him about the move, which would effectively ‘freeze out’ Mr Gleeson from offering independent advice and enhance Mr Brandis’s power.
Mr Brandis insists that the direction was simply “administrative housekeeping”, but Mr Gleeson told the Senate Standing Committee that the directive was unlawful and could have insidious consequences.
While Mr Brandis believes that Mr Gleeson’s resignation is “the proper course of action for him to have taken”, many are calling it unfortunate. Former Attorney-General Mark Dreyfuss says it is “a direct result of the Attorney-General’s disgraceful treatment of Mr Gleeson and his office.”
“It is not Mr Gleeson who should have resigned today – it is Senator Brandis,” said Mr Dreyfus. “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.”
Read more at www.abc.net.au
Did Barnaby Joyce sack department head to save his own behind?
A one-page letter from the former head of the Agriculture Department, Paul Grimes, was released this week, which could be considered evidence that Mr Grimes was sacked by Barnaby Joyce because he called into question certain actions of the Deputy Leader.
The Guardian reports that the Federal government has spent tens of thousands of dollars to keep this letter from being seen by the public, as it raises questions about Mr Joyce’s conduct and ‘integrity’.
The dispute revolved around claims that Mr Joyce changed ministerial details in the Hansard parliamentary record. After Mr Grimes called into question this act, he was allegedly bullied and subsequently sacked for ‘trying to protect the reputation of the department’.
“I am writing to advise you that I no longer have confidence in my capacity to resolve matters relating to integrity with you,” stated Mr Grimes. “This follows the sequence of events before and following the alterations to Hansard that were made in October 2014.”
“I am heavily conscious of my obligations to act ethically and impartially discharging my duties. There are established processes under the Public Service Act for resolving circumstances where a relationship between a secretary and a minister has broken down irretrievably,” Mr Grimes wrote.
“This letter shows Paul Grimes was deeply concerned about Barnaby Joyce’s behaviour. He was challenging Joyce’s integrity,” said shadow agriculture minister, Joel Fitzgibbon. “He clearly thought what Joyce did was not appropriate. This letter indicates he was being bullied.
“What Barnaby Joyce did was to sack Paul Grimes to save himself.”
Read more at The Guardian
Arthur Sinodinos says there could be an Abbott comeback
On the ABC’s Q&A last night, Liberal Senator Arthur Sinodinos refused to rule out a Tony Abbott comeback as prime minister.
Although Mr Sinodinos said he “wouldn’t put money” on an Abbott return, “bitter experience” had taught him not to rule out such notions.
“At the end of the day [politics] is about being pragmatic, and governing for as many people as we can, and that’s what I think Turnbull is fundamentally about,” said Mr Sinodinos. “Do I think we’ll ever go back to Tony? In politics, I’ve learnt through bitter experience, you never rule anything in or out.
“Because in life, I’ve learnt, in politics, it’s the thing you least expect that can come back.”
Read more at The Age
Speaking of coming back, it’s probably for the best that Parliament isn’t back this week, as Labor would be having a field day with this political pantomime. What are your thoughts about these matters? Is Mr Gleeson’s loss unfortunate? How do you see Mr Brandis’s future panning out? Is the Deputy Leader’s integrity in question? And how about a Tony Abbott comeback? Is it out of the realm of possibility? Does all this make the Opposition look good?