The Qld premier has defended his attorney-general, who’s facing calls to quit for allegedly leaking confidential discussions.
The Queensland premier says he has full confidence in his embattled attorney-general, amid calls for him to quit for allegedly betraying the confidence of senior legal figures.
Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie has denied leaking details of confidential discussions he had with the president of the Queensland Bar Association over the appointment of the state’s next chief justice.
Some of Queensland’s most respected legal figures have savaged Mr Bleijie’s decision to elevate Chief Magistrate Tim Carmody to the job, saying he lacks experience, doesn’t have the support of Supreme Court judges, and there’s a perception he’s too close to the government to do the job independently.
But it’s Mr Bleijie’s alleged inability to keep confidences that has sparked calls for him to resign.
Peter Davis QC quit as president of the bar association last week, accusing Mr Bleijie or his chief of staff of leaking to Mr Carmody details of private discussions they about who should be the next chief justice.
Mr Davis cited a similar breach of confidence, involving Court of Appeal president Margaret McMurdo earlier this year, as evidence of a damaging breakdown in trust between the attorney-general and the judiciary.
The Australian Bar Association and the Law Council of Australia have also expressed grave concerns about Mr Davis’s allegations.
On Tuesday, retired Supreme Court Justice Jim Thomas added his voice to the chorus, saying Mr Bleijie’s position as attorney-general is now untenable.
“This Attorney has absolutely lost the confidence of the judges,” he told ABC radio.
“Who would trust him or tell him anything after what he did to Justice Margaret McMurdo, vindictively spilling a confidential conversation. He’s now lost the Bar too.
“As far as I can see no responsible professional will ever give frank advice to him again and rightly so. In that situation he simply can’t do his job and its all of his own making.”
He said Mr Bleijie should offer his resignation to protect the integrity of the office of attorney-general and limit the damage he was doing to the government.
“On these reports, Mr Bleijie leaks sieve,” Justice Thomas said.
“We can’t have someone who acts dishonestly as the first officer in an honourable profession.”
The premier refused on Tuesday to comment on the leak allegations, but his attorney-general was doing an outstanding job and his work had resulted in a 15 to 30 per cent drop in crime across Queensland.
“I have the utmost confidence in the attorney-general,” Mr Newman told ABC radio.
He also said there was a “huge amount” of community support for Mr Carmody’s appointment, and the suggestion that no-one in the judiciary backed it was wrong.
“It’s the same old people who want to have a go but there are huge numbers of people in the law who support him and most importantly Queenslanders support him,” he said.
Mr Bleijie’s office said he was on a pre-arranged trip away from Brisbane and could provide no further comment, other than to restate his denial about leaking details about his dealings with Mr Davis.
Mr Carmody has promised to fulfil his role as chief justice with all the independence the role requires and denies he’s too close to the government.
Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney also expressed support for the attorney-general when asked about Justice Jim Thomas’ view that his position had become untenable.
“Jarrod Bleijie’s done a great job,” he told reporters.