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Gleeson took right action in quitting: PM

AAP logoAAP 24/10/2016 Paul Osborne

Malcolm Turnbull says the solicitor-general has done the right thing in resigning and expressed his confidence in Attorney-General George Brandis.

However, Labor says Senator Brandis should be kept out of the process to replace Justin Gleeson.

Australia's second law officer announced his resignation on Monday saying his professional relationship with Senator Brandis was irretrievably broken.

The move came after Senator Brandis banned ministers - including the prime minister - from seeking advice from the solicitor-general without notifying him first - a change Mr Gleeson said undermined his independence and happened without consultation.

"It's always regrettable when people don't get on in the workplace," Mr Turnbull told reporters in Brisbane on Tuesday.

"But that's been the case and he has made the right call but I thank him for his work."

He added it was a "pity" the relationship with Senator Brandis had broken down, but such things happened.

Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said it was Senator Brandis who should've resigned.

"Make no mistake, George Brandis brought about the circumstances in which the Solicitor-General Justin Gleeson has felt obliged to resign - it is a sad and unnecessary resignation," Mr Dreyfus told reporters in Melbourne.

Mr Dreyfus said the senator shouldn't be able to select the replacement for Mr Gleeson, who's only the 11th person to serve in the prestigious role.

He's written to the prime minister suggesting the secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet Martin Parkinson determine a short-list for cabinet to consider.

"It cannot be left to Senator Brandis to hand-pick the replacement," Mr Dreyfus said.

Mr Gleeson will step down on November 7 and is rumoured to be heading to the London bar.

Mr Turnbull doesn't expect it will be hard to fill "one of the great offices of the law".

"You will always find many distinguished lawyers who would be honoured to accept an appointment as solicitor-general."

Labor frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon linked the saga to the stoush between Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and former agriculture department boss Paul Grimes, who stepped down last year citing a similar relationship breakdown.

"It's pretty clear that these days, anyone who disagrees with this government, any professional public servant who gives frank and fearless advice to this government faces execution," he told reporters in Canberra.

Mr Turnbull said his government valued "frank advice" from public servants.

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