An early report into Attorney-General George Brandis and his role in the Bell Group High Court case is set to demand he be forced into revealing more information about the issue.
The Senate’s legal and constitution committee is due to hand down an interim report today into Senator Brandis’ and his answers to a string of questions over how the Bell case was handled by the Attorney-General and then Solicitor-General Justin Gleeson.
The West Australian revealed last year that Senator Brandis verbally directed then Mr Gleeson not to run a particular argument against the Barnett Government’s Bell legislation which was ultimately found unconstitutional by the High Court.
The episode was critical in the events that led to Mr Gleeson’s resignation.
Senator Brandis has also come under pressure over his claim he had no “personal involvement” in the Bell case until March last year despite WA’s then Attorney-General Michael Mischin saying he had spoken to Senator Brandis in early February.
It is understood Labor as well as cross-bench members of the Senate inquiry want more information from Senator Brandis and his office over his involvement in the Bell case and any conversations he had with Mr Gleeson.
Documents released to the ALP under Freedom of Information laws suggest there was early confidence within the Tax Office, which was a party to the High Court action, that the WA legislation would be knocked down as unconstitutional.
In an email dated April 5 last year, which was the first day of the High Court hearing, a senior tax office staff member said it appeared the WA law was in trouble.
“While it is almost impossible to say what the court will finally determine it is fair to say that after the first day it seems more likely than not that the court will hold the Bell Act to be invalid at least to some extent,” they wrote.
The Barnett Government had argued it had an agreement with the Federal Government not to take legal action over the Bell Act which the High Court ruled unanimously as unconstitutional.