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Brandis to face Senate inquiry over WA deal

The Senate has voted to establish an inquiry that will investigate the deal between the Western Australian government and the Commonwealth regarding the Bell Act, and the involvement of Attorney-General George Brandis and former Treasurer Joe Hockey.

"This motion passed today compels Senator Brandis and Senator Mathias Cormann to appear before the inquiry to answer questions about their involvement in this deal," Greens Justice spokesperson Senator Nick McKim said.

"The Greens believe that former Treasurer Joe Hockey should also be called to give evidence."

"After two days of trying to explain himself, Senator Brandis has failed to deny instructing the former Solicitor-General not to run a particular argument in the High Court."

"His failure to deny this allegation is an admission of guilt, and his selective use of legal privilege to dodge that allegation is a political fig leaf."

"He has been prepared to waive legal privilege on a range of issues when it has suited him politically."

"His decision to not waive privilege on this matter calls his innocence into question."

Full text of the Motion, moved by Nick McKim and Murray Watt:

That the following matter be referred to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee for inquiry and report by 21 March 2017:

(1) The nature and scope of any agreement reached by the Commonwealth and Western Australian Governments in relation to the distribution of proceeds of the liquidation of, and litigation concerning, the Bell Group of companies (the proceeds), with particular reference to:

(a) the priority order for distribution of the proceeds;
(b) the Commonwealth’s position in relation to the distribution of, and litigation concerning, the proceeds;
(c) any connection between the above and the settlement of other disputes between the Commonwealth and Western Australian Governments, including regarding the distribution of GST revenue between the States;
(d) any direction or instruction given by the Attorney-General to the Solicitor-General, either directly or through his office or department, in relation to the conduct of litigation concerning the proceeds;
(e) any connection between the above and the issuing of the Legal Services Amendment (Solicitor-General Opinions) Direction; and
(f) any other related matter.

(2) That the Senate directs the Attorney-General (Senator Brandis) and the Minister for Finance (Senator Cormann) to appear before the committee to answer questions.

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