Solicitor-General Gleeson resigns. Howe to act.

By Tom Burton

October 24, 2016

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – OCTOBER 19: Minister for the Arts and Sport Senator George Brandis speaks to the media during the press conference announcing Netball Australia will receive $AUD 2.4 million in government funding at the State Netball and Hockey Centre on October 19, 2007 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** George Brandis

The long running feud between the two most senior law officers of the Commonwealth has been dramatically resolved, with Solicitor-General Justin Gleeson giving notice of his resignation from his office from 7 November.

“I have come to this conclusion with regret, but the best interests of the Commonwealth can be served only when its first and second Law Officers enjoy each other’s complete trust and confidence within a mutually respectful relationship,” Gleeson wrote in his resignation letter today.

“When such a relationship is irretrievably broken, as is the case here, and each Law Officer holds a term of office established by the Constitution or statute which will not expire in the near future, there must be some resolution to the impasse.”

Gleeson’s resignation notice was immediately accepted by Attorney General, Senator George Brandis.

“In the circumstances, Mr Gleeson’s resignation is the proper course of action for him to have taken, as his letter acknowledges,” Brandis said.

“I thank Mr Gleeson for his service as the Solicitor-General of the Commonwealth and wish him well for the future.”

“I will immediately take steps to identify and recommend to the Cabinet a suitable person to be the next Solicitor-General. In the meantime, the Government will recommend to His Excellency the Governor-General the appointment of Mr Tom Howe PSM QC as the Acting Solicitor-General.”

Howe is the Chief Council of the Dispute Resolution office of the Australian Government Solicitor.

The resignation comes after a long public disagreement about Brandis issuing a direction requiring ministers to obtain his written permission before seeking advice from the Solicitor-General.

Gleeson and Brandis have been in dispute whether Gleeson was properly consulted about the change before it was implemented ahead of the election this year.

“In taking this· step, I make it perfectly plain that my motivation is solely to further the best interests of the Commonwealth by enabling the restoration of a functional working relationship between the first and second Law Officers,” Gleeson said in his resignation letter.

“My decision does not amount to withdrawal of any position I have taken in relation to matters of controversy between us, including before the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee. I trust that it will in fact better enable the Parliament to make an objective consideration of the issues I have raised undistracted by personalities.

“For the avoidance of any doubt, I also make perfectly plain that I reject absolutely each and every attack and insinuation that has been made in recent times upon me personally, or upon my office, by Government members of Parliament, including you, in Senate Committee processes. Equally, my decision is unrelated to any finding the Senate Committee may make in favour of or adverse to any person.”

The Committee is due to report November 8.

The resignation comes as Ministers continue to pressure the Human Rights Commissioner Professor Julian Triggs, with several senior ministers refusing to give her public support.  This came after Triggs  last week retracted her claim to a Senate Legal Affairs committee that she was misquoted and “taken out of context” in an interview with the Saturday Paper. In that interview she criticised “seriously ill-informed and uneducated” politicians

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