Alliance Against Political Prosecutions (AAPP)
Media Release 4 March 2021
We must have a new Attorney-General who commands respect
“The questions raised about Attorney-General Christian Porter must be investigated thoroughly through an independent inquiry, and we are pleased to hear that he currently intends to step aside. This inquiry must be separate from the parliament and be led by a respected member of the judiciary,” said Kathryn Kelly from the Alliance Against Political Prosecutions.
“Attorney-General Christian Porter is the primary protector of the rule of law in Australia. As such, his behaviour and judgement must be above reproach. Questions were raised in the ABC Four Corners program broadcast last year, and these should also be relevant matters for the inquiry,” Ms Kelly continued.
“Regardless of the outcome of the inquiry, we are extremely concerned that he has been failing in his duty as the upholder of the rule of law. There is evidence for this failure in several areas which we have previously raised with the Prime Minister.
“His lack of compliance with the legal reporting requirements for the issuing of National Security Information orders is one example.
“Another is his defence of Alan Tudge after Acting Minister Tudge was found by the Federal court to have engaged in criminal conduct for detaining an asylum seeker for five days in defiance of an order by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.”
“Senior lawyer, Ian Cunliffe said on this matter, ‘Porter’s response condoned Tudge’s conduct. Porter said that Tudge’s action was ‘in effect the government undertaking its duties through the minister as a matter of policy…The Minister clearly rejects [the court’s] conclusions’. And so the First Law Officer of the Commonwealth excused the Minister’s [action] – the Minister was implementing Government policy, and, implicitly in Porter’s view, policy trumps the criminal law and trumps the orders of courts or tribunals.’ ”
“The lack of judgement demonstrated by his approval of, or failing to halt, the prosecutions of Witness K, lawyer Bernard Collaery and military lawyer, Major David McBride is another example. Witness K and Major McBride saw actions that were clearly immoral and not in the interests of Australia. They took their concerns to the proper persons in their respective organisations and in Witness K’s case was advised to obtain legal representation. In Major McBride’s case it was only when nothing was done about his evidence of wrongdoing, that he made the information public. The public disclosures of possible war crimes by the SAS in Afghanistan is evidence of the veracity of Major McBride’s action.
“It is clearly in the public interest that those immoral actions were made public and that the people responsible should be held accountable, no matter how senior they were/are in the
government or the military. The action against Bernard Collaery is even more egregious, if that is possible. He was a lawyer who had been recommended to Witness K for engagement by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security; was a former Attorney-General in the ACT and a respected lawyer. How a lawyer can be prosecuted for doing his job is unfathomable.
“Yet another example of questionable judgement is the history of bad management while he was a minister responsible for the robo-debt fiasco, which left tax payers with a debt of $1.2b.
“His judgement, competence and behaviour is seriously in question and is in no way acceptable for an Attorney-General – the foremost protector of the rule of law in Australia. The Attorney- General must have the trust and confidence of the Australian people. He has forfeited that.
There must be an inquiry and regardless of the outcome, there must be a new Attorney- General,” Ms Kelly concluded.
Contact: Kathryn Kelly 0417 269 984
AAPP supporting organisations: Australia East Timor Friendship Association, Civil Liberties Australia, Friends of Lacluta (Vic), Humanists Australia, Independent and Peaceful Australia Network, International Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL), Josephite Justice Network, Just Peace (QLD), Lawyers for Peace, Medical Association for the Prevention of War, Timor Sea Justice (VIC), Monitoring Committee on Attacks on Lawyers, Timor Sea Justice Forum (NSW).