First published October 10
Last week’s Cabinet reshuffle in Tasmania might have passed by mainland Australians. It was one made in clearly ‘challenging circumstances‘ for the Government; with one Cabinet Minister quitting politics for family reasons and the other due to serious illness. Part of the deficit was met by elevating Elise Archer MP to the Cabinet – a well-deserved and popular decision from both sides of the House and indeed the public.
Seemingly less publicised was the Premier’s decision to appoint himself Attorney-General. Ex-Premier Lara Giddings was one of the few to voice her concern, immediately tweeting:
‘why is the Premier AG? The AG role is the second most powerful role in Cabinet. You can run Govt with just an AG and Premier’.
This is a serious question because the appointment appears to consolidate the two most powerful constitutional roles in Government in one person. These are roles that are somewhat at odds with each other: one leads and drives government policy; the other is supposed to be a check and balance on the legality and constitutionality of government action.
As will be seen, these very real conflicts have led to historical controversies – if not outright constitutional impropriety – within the state, providing salient lessons outside of it. Indeed, the last time a Tasmanian Premier was truly co-appointed Attorney General – other than acting or transitional roles – it formed a chain of events that culminated in the Franklin Dam controversy, and of course, the Tasmanian Dam Case, both of which forever altered the national political and constitutional landscape.
Historical Context …
*Brendan Gogarty is a Senior Lecturer in Law and Director of Clinical Legal Education, Faculty of Law.