So what is the point of a Senate enquiry?

An enquiry into  circumstances surrounding the rift between Attorney-General George Brandis and former solicitor-general Justin Gleeson, SC. has come up with numbingly unsurprising findings.

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In a report released late on Tuesday, the Senate standing committee on legal and constitutional affairs concluded Attorney-General George Brandis misled Parliament over his dealings with the government’s chief legal adviser in a damning report that reopens the toxic rift between the two men.

The chair of the committee, Labor senator Louise Pratt, said the report demonstrated the “unfitness of the Attorney-General to hold his high office” and he had made “false and misleading statements” in the Senate.

But Liberal senator Ian Macdonald, one of two government senators who delivered a dissenting report, said the Labor and Greens-dominated committee always conducted “political witch hunts” and “nobody takes any notice” of its work.

So, who do we believe?

The situation smacks of the scene from 1984 where O’Brien is torturing Winston. He holds his fingers up in front of Winston’s face asking him how many fingers he sees.

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The late Richard Burton as O’Brien

“You are a slow learner, Winston.”
“How can I help it? How can I help but see what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.”
“Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.

The Senate standing committee on legal and constitutional affairs, which is clearly divided along party lines with one faction endeavouring to convince us there are three fingers and the other trying to convince us there are five.

But how do we decide when our public institutions, and in particular enquiries that are designed to dig beneath the begrimed façade of current politics, produce completely contradictory findings. Not only that, but contradictory findings that are divided along party political lines.

The work of the standing committee provides no more information than the reasonably assiduous reader would have gleaned from media reports.

So what’s the point?

 

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