Labor ramps up pressure on Brandis

Belinda Merhab

Labor has used parliament's question time to ramp up its attack on Attorney-General George Brandis over his stoush with the solicitor-general.

Labor used almost every question on Monday to suggest Senator Brandis misled parliament when he claimed to have consulted Justin Gleeson over changes to who can seek government legal advice.

The minister maintained he and Mr Gleeson clearly had a difference of opinion as to whether or not discussions between them constituted consultation.

"He has one view, I have another," Senator Brandis said.

Senator Brandis told the parliament in September Mr Gleeson had been consulted during a meeting in November 2015 over new guidelines ruling that no-one in government, including the prime minister, could seek the solicitor-general's advice without the attorney's permission.

But Mr Gleeson rejected that claim, telling a Senate inquiry last week Senator Brandis did not indicate he was considering issuing a legally-binding direction.

Senator Brandis on Monday insisted Mr Gleeson was right - he never told him he was considering issuing the direction at that meeting.

"I agree with that statement because at the time of that meeting I was seeking Mr Gleeson's views about the matter," he said.

"I had formed no view whatever as to what course I would take. That is a view I formed subsequent to the meeting."

Labor will seek to disallow the direction once the Senate inquiry reports back in November.

Labor later on Monday will move an urgency motion declaring Senator Brandis failed to uphold the standards of his office by undermining public confidence in legal administration within the government.

Penny Wong, leader of the opposition in the Senate, called on Senator Brandis to resign.

She accused him of trying to shut down the solicitor-general as a source of independent advice while trying to deceive parliament into thinking Mr Gleeson was on board with the changes.

"He sought to achieve this through underhanded conduct," she told parliament.

"He tried to sneak the direction through just before parliament was dissolved."

Senator Brandis and Mr Gleeson will front a legal and constitutional affairs committee public hearing in Canberra on Friday morning.