Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie is accused of defaming a female judge who raised the issue of the status of women.
Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie has the full support of the premier after landing blows in what could be his biggest fight yet with the judiciary.
Mr Bleijie is accused of defaming Court of Appeal president Margaret McMurdo by inferring she had privately recommended her husband for a recent appointment.
The attorney-general, who has been involved in altercations with members of the judiciary in the past, took a swing at Justice McMurdo after she suggested on Friday that the Liberal National Party had an “unconscious bias” against appointing women to the judiciary.
Only one woman has been promoted to judicial office in the last two years, out of 17 appointments, she argued in a speech on gender equality.
Former solicitor-general Walter Sofronoff, who quit last week in a one-line email, says Mr Bleijie has defamed Ms McMurdo by trying to discredit her rather than address the real issue of the status of women.
Mr Sofronoff called on Mr Bleijie to resign, saying he couldn’t be trusted and acted unethically.
“What judge in his or her right mind will give him advice about the merits of various candidates knowing that if it suits him politically, he will issue a press release detailing the conversation?” Mr Sofronoff asked.
Mr Bleijie made the conversation with Justice McMurdo public after consulting Premier Campbell Newman at the weekend.
They agreed that she had attacked the government and it was appropriate to respond.
“I don’t think you’d find that there (are) any Queenslanders who would say that if a judge or a member of the judiciary publicly attacks the government or opposition … then they wouldn’t expect some sort of counter-attack or a correction of the record, that is exactly what we have done here,” Mr Bleijie said.
Mr Newman said his attorney-general had every right to make the comments.
“If you want to go into the political arena, the public arena, then you have to be prepared that people will respond and defend their position,” he said.
“I think it’s a healthy debate, but really what Queenslanders want is for them to cool it and get back to the business of doing their jobs.
“The attorney-general has my full confidence – so does Justice McMurdo in terms of her position.”
The Bar Association of Queensland president, Peter Davis QC, criticised both sides for not being able to engage in a polite and dignified manner.
He added that Mr Bleijie’s leak would erode relations between the judiciary and the government.
“Robust rebuttal of a suggestion of unconscious bias, we accept, can be justified, but in refuting such challenges the government should not undermine the confidences which are a necessary part of the administration of justice in this state.”