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New solicitor-general appointed

AAP logoAAP 14/12/2016 Belinda Merhab

A new solicitor-general has been appointed after a stoush with Attorney-General George Brandis drove the previous one to resign.

Senator Brandis has announced Dr Stephen Donaghue QC will start in his role as Australia's second law officer on January 16, for a period of five years.

It comes weeks after Justin Gleeson resigned following a dispute with the attorney-general over whether he was consulted on a legal change he said undermined his independence.

Senator Brandis said Dr Donaghue was a distinguished constitutional lawyer who had frequently appeared as senior counsel before the High Court.

The governor-general had accepted the advice of the government to appoint Dr Donaghue to the role.

"His practice has involved complex and high profile matters across a broad range of legal areas," Senator Brandis said on Wednesday.

Mr Gleeson's resignation came after Senator Brandis banned ministers - including the prime minister - from seeking advice from the solicitor-general without notifying him first.

The controversial amendment was withdrawn by Senator Brandis in November, hours before the Senate was expected to disallow it anyway.

Labor welcomed the appointment of Dr Donaghue.

"Dr Donaghue is fortunate that the Legal Services Direction which so limited the independence of his predecessor, Justin Gleeson, has been removed," Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said in a statement .

"Labor hopes Dr Donaghue is treated better than Mr Gleeson in his role."

Law Council of Australia president Stuart Clark said Dr Donaghue was well-renowned and had been of great service to the legal profession.

He urged that the role of solicitor-general remain independent, insisting "frank, fearless and independent advice" was critical to the proper operation of government.

"The office of the solicitor-general plays a vital role in assisting ministers and agencies to comply with the rule of law and to discharge their functions in accordance with the constraints of the law.

"The Law Council has every confidence in the ability of Stephen Donaghue QC to provide the impartial advice that the position demands."

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