JOE LUDWIG was whisked into the role of shadow Attorney-General last week following the shock replacement of Kelvin Thomson over the Tony Mokbel affair.
Opposition leader Kevin Rudd, who labelled the situation as “unacceptable”, announced an audit of the Labor Party references last week in response to the scandal.
“It is unacceptable for a person to be shadow Attorney-General and the first law officer of the Commonwealth to have provided a letter of support of this nature,” Rudd said. “That is also [Thomson’s] view.”
Ludwig, the former shadow Minister for Justice and Customs told Lawyers Weekly that Thomson took the right course of action by resigning from his position.
“It did demand an element of caution, which wasn’t there, and I think they are [Thomson’s] own words,” he said. “And on that basis [Thomson] took the appropriate action.”
The decision to conduct an audit of references is just as appropriate, Ludwig said, and is something he imagines all politicians will be eager to see completed. He believes the establishment of guidelines in relation to reference-giving will be a necessary next step.
Meanwhile, Attorney-General Philip Ruddock seized on Thomson’s error, describing it as “a lack of judgment”, but also pointing to deeper problems within the Labor Party.
“A greater concern of course is a pattern of behaviour that this evidences in the Labor Party; an Opposition leader who admitted to poor judgment in meeting [Brian Burke]; a shadow minister who again has demonstrated very poor judgment,” he said. “Clearly in relation to accountability, the senior members of the Labor Party have a problem.”
However, Ludwig said Ruddock should examine his own history — including a stint as Minister for Immigration at the time of Cornelia Rau and Vivian Solon — before passing criticism on others.
“The first thing that [Ruddock] should do is look at his own backyard, quite frankly. It doesn’t augur well for him when you look at his history, and you look at the current position he holds, which is first law officer [as well as being] the national security spokesman for the Coalition Government,” Ludwig said.
“These two roles are quite frankly conflicted and incompatible. One you have him championing human rights and on the other strenuously enforcing terrorism laws in this country.”
And in respect of David Hicks, Ludwig said the Government had displayed a fundamental failing in their handling of his situation.
“Despite their closeness to the US, despite their rhetoric, it has been five years that this person has been in detention in Guantanamo Bay,” he said.
“I want to get my feet under the table and have a broader look at the whole issue, but in short, you’ve got to look at what the Government has done. They’ve sat on their hands and suddenly … started talking about him.”
Ludwig said he is also a strong supporter of reform in so far as the national profession project is concerned. “I was first introduced to it in the model green paper in Queensland, where they were looking at the reform of the legal profession,” he said. “And I think all of those things need to be put on the table, strongly debated and … moved forward to agreement. There is a strong need for all of those matters to be carefully looked at.”