Fatima Payman quits Labor; UK election results begin; Peter Dutton slammed by Usman Khawaja

The Home Affairs and Attorney-General’s departments have launched a “preliminary inquiry” into Peter Dutton overseeing the failure to disclose a key report during a terrorist court case.

In early June, this masthead revealed a Victorian Supreme Court judge referred the non-disclosure of evidence, by department officials while Dutton was home affairs minister, to the national security legislation watchdog for inquiry.

Abdul Nacer Benbrika and Peter Dutton.

Abdul Nacer Benbrika and Peter Dutton.

On June 19, Independent National Security Legislation Monitor Jake Blight released a statement that said the watchdog had passed on the referral because its remit only covered legislation.

“[I]t has been agreed that the Department of Home Affairs and the Attorney-General’s Department will appoint an eminent person (such as a former judge) to undertake a preliminary inquiry to determine whether there should be a code of conduct or other process in relation to the non-disclosure of material by any officer in the Benbrika proceedings,” Blight said.


Today, the Australian Associated Press reported former Federal Court judge Alan Robertson has been appointed to undertake the inquiry.

Blight’s statement last month said the reviewer – appointed by the Attorney-General’s Department and Home Affairs to review the conduct of Home Affairs officials – would be independent.

In the last Coalition government, Dutton’s department oversaw the Australian Federal Police in 2020 when convicted terrorist Abdul Nacer Benbrika’s prison sentence was set to finish and the Commonwealth applied to extend it, arguing he was a risk to the community.

Benbrika’s legal team did not have access to the report that poked holes in a key terrorist assessment tool underpinning the risk evaluation the court relied upon to keep the terrorist locked up. That report found the tool was as effective as flipping a coin.

The move drew scorn from Victorian Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Hollingworth when the report came to light.

“What happened in this case should never have happened, and should not be repeated,” Justice Hollingworth said in her reasons to refer Dutton.

Abdul Nacer Benbrika leaving Barwon Prison, near Geelong, in December.

Abdul Nacer Benbrika leaving Barwon Prison, near Geelong, in December.Credit: Justin McManus

The justice branded the non-disclosure of various expert reports a “serious interference with the administration of justice”.

The buried report was kept from the Supreme Court to protect secret information criminals could take advantage of, an internal Home Affairs Department document revealed. Home Affairs said the report wasn’t made public because it contained sensitive information in talking points prepared for a subsequent minister and released under freedom of information laws.

Benbrika, an Algerian grandfather who goes by the name “Nacer”, was convicted in 2009 of directing a terrorist organisation. A jury found him guilty of being the spiritual leader of a terror cell, with members in Melbourne and Sydney, that planned attacks on Australian soil.

His group discussed carrying out attacks because it wanted the Australian government to withdraw troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. No attacks were ever carried out.

Dutton’s office was contacted for comment.

AAP with David Estcourt

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