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Annual Report 2007-08 Overview


Letter of Transmittal  

Chapter 1 Secretary’s review

One of the most important activities this year was the smooth transition from the Howard Government to the Rudd Government following the election in November 2007.


The Hon Robert McClelland MP took office as Attorney-General in December 2007 and The Hon Bob Debus MP was appointed Minister for Home Affairs.

The Administrative Arrangements Order transferred responsibility for freedom of information and privacy to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and the responsibility for Territories and natural disaster mitigation and relief to the Department from the former Department of Transport and Regional Services.

Early initiatives by the Rudd Government in the Attorney-General’s portfolio included:

  • establishing a more open judicial appointments process (for federal courts other than the High Court). The process now involves public notices in the national media and letters to a wide range of bodies calling for expressions of interest in and nominations for appointment. These are considered against published selection criteria by a panel comprising the head of jurisdiction (or nominee), former judges and a senior officer of the Department. Appointments are then expected to be made from the list of recommended candidates provided to the Attorney-General;
  • implementing a more open process for most statutory appointments. The position of Commonwealth Solicitor-General was advertised and selected candidates were interviewed by a panel which made recommendations to the Attorney-General. Stephen Gageler QC will take up the position of Solicitor-General following the completion of David Bennett AC QC’s distinguished tenure over the past 10 years;
  • continuing reform of family law with the Family Law (De Facto Financial Matters and Other Measures) Amendment Bill 2008 which reflects the Government’s commitment to applying family law in a consistent way to de facto relationships;
  • developing legislation to provide equality for same-sex and heterosexual couples in areas such as social security, superannuation, taxation and family payments;
  • introducing initial reforms to the Commonwealth’s purchase of legal services to deliver efficiencies and savings in Commonwealth legal spending. In particular, the Attorney-General strongly supported the use of alternative dispute resolution to expedite the resolution of disputes by agreement rather than judicial determination;
  • encouraging all parties to take a more flexible rather than an overly legalistic approach to native title claims to provide more effective and efficient use of the current native title system;
  • commissioning an inquiry by The Hon John Clarke QC into the conduct of Commonwealth agencies in Dr Mohamed Haneef’s case. The Inquiry commenced in April and is to report by 30 September 2008; and
  • emphasising the Government’s intention to strengthen Australia’s participation in the international arena including through implementing a number of treaties.

Other significant achievements during the year included:

  • providing extensive legal advice in regard to Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean;
  • successfully commencing the AusCheck background checking service in September 2007 and completing its 100,000th inquiry shortly after the conclusion of the financial year;
  • extraditing Tony Mokbel from Greece and, just after the end of the year, extraditing Jayant Patel from the United States;
  • assisting in the prosecution in Victoria of a major terrorism trial of 12 persons accused of terrorism offences under the Criminal Code. The trial was close to conclusion by the end of June. The Department facilitated security vetting for court officials and some lawyers and provided secure laptops and secure storage for classified information;
  • coordinating the Commonwealth’s security arrangements for all of the APEC meetings held in Australia during 2007, including the Leaders’ meeting in Sydney in September 2007. This was the most significant meeting of world leaders in Australian history and was conducted without any significant security issues arising;
  • providing analyses of the critical infrastructure and protection in and around the APEC meeting zone and World Youth Day locations, which assisted in the development of NSW Police’s security planning;
  • continuing with the development of a National Personal Property Securities Register which is now scheduled to be in operation in 2010;
  • commissioning the provision of night patrol services to a further 50 remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory. These services are recognised as essential to protect children from abuse, promote law and order and ensure the safety of families in those remote communities;
  • leading the Australian delegation to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf which, in April 2008, confirmed Australia’s entitlement to an extended Continental Shelf beyond 200 nautical miles of 2.56 million square kilometres;
  • assisting North Queensland to prevent and recover from flood damage, particularly by helping obtain temporary flood barriers to fill gaps in the Charleville levee;
  • establishing direct consultation with the intercountry adoption community, including adoptive and prospective parents, adoptees and adoption professionals;
  • commencing or progressing reviews to improve governance and service delivery in those Territories for which the Department now has responsibility;
  • rolling out Project STOP and the National Clandestine Laboratory Database which seek to prevent the diversion of key chemicals and enhance strategic intelligence on domestic amphetamine production; and
  • finalising compensation claims made by firearms dealers as a result of the COAG handgun reforms.

These highlights give small insight into the scope and diversity of the Department’s activities and the reasons for its continued growth which is apparent from the following statistics.

On 30 June 2000, the Department had 539 full-time equivalent staff (excluding the Australian Protective Service and the Insolvency and Trustee Service Australia which operated as, and were soon to become, separate agencies). All of these staff were based in Canberra.

In 2000–01, the Department had an appropriation of $99 million and administered revenue of $225 million.

Today, total staff is around 1,550. The departmental appropriation for 2007–08 was $217 million and its total appropriation including administered funds and capital was $1.152 billion.

The Department now has offices in Canberra, Sydney, Mount Macedon, Perth, Jervis Bay, and Christmas and Norfolk Islands, as well as officers in Indigenous Coordination Centres around the country.

The Department has grown in two ways. First, a number of our long standing divisions have got bigger. Secondly, the Department has grown by acquiring new divisions or functions.

As a consequence, the Department has continued to increase its accommodation arrangements. The Department took possession of a new building, known as the National Operations Centre, at Symonston in December 2007. When fully occupied the NOC will accommodate personnel from AusCheck and the Information and Knowledge Services Group, the Department’s Data Centre and the Department’s Call Centre.

In addition, the construction of the Department’s principal new office at 3–5 National Circuit continued on time and on target and is on schedule for occupation by the Department in April 2009.

This is my last Secretary’s Review, having given notice of my intention to resign on 31 August 2008.

I have greatly enjoyed the privilege and opportunity to serve the people and Government of Australia in this position since 24 January 2000.

I thank the Ministers who have held office in this portfolio and all of the staff of the Department for their encouragement and support over that eight and a half year period.

Robert Cornall's signature 

Robert Cornall AO

Chapter 2 About the portfolio

The Attorney-General’s portfolio

The Attorney-General’s Department is the central policy and coordinating element in the portfolio. The Department serves the people of Australia by providing essential expert support to the Government in the maintenance and improvement of Australia’s system of law and justice.

The portfolio also includes the statutory office of the Solicitor-General, who is the Second Law Officer of the Commonwealth (the Attorney-General being the First Law Officer), along with other related bodies and agencies. The portfolio structure is outlined on below and reflects the changes as a result of the Administrative Arrangements Order of 3 December 2007.

Additionally, with the change in government a new Ministry for Home Affairs was created, replacing the Ministry for Justice and Customs, and the areas of responsibility for this new ministry are listed below.

Portfolio ministers and their responsibilities

The Hon Philip Ruddock MP
7 October 2003 – 3 December 2007
The Hon Robert McClelland MP
Since 3 December 2007
Responsibilities as at 30 June 2008
  • Administrative law
  • Alternative dispute resolution
  • Bankruptcy law
  • Constitutional matters
  • Copyright
  • Courts and tribunals
  • Critical infrastructure protection
  • Electronic transactions regulation
  • Emergency management
  • Evidence
  • Human rights
  • Identity security
  • Intercountry adoption
  • International law
  • Law reform
  • Legal aid
  • Legal services
  • Legislative drafting
  • Marriage and family law
  • National security and counter-terrorism
  • Native title
  • Personal property securities
  • Prosecution policy
  • Protective security coordination
  • Royal commissions and other major inquiries
  • Telecommunications interception and surveillance devices
  • Overall portfolio management
Minister for Justice and Customs Minister for Home Affairs
Senator the Hon David Johnston
9 March 2007 – 3 December 2007
The Hon Bob Debus MP
Since 3 December 2007
Responsibilities as at 30 June 2008
  • Airport physical security, including air security
  • Classification
  • Criminal intelligence and criminology research
  • Criminal law and crime prevention
  • Customs
  • Cybercrime
  • Drug strategy
  • Extradition and mutual assistance
  • Federal prisoners
  • Firearms
  • Indigenous law and justice
  • Law enforcement
  • Policing
  • Proceeds of crime
  • Protective service
  • Territories

Portfolio structure

The bodies within the Attorney-General’s portfolio are listed below in alphabetical order. Annual reporting requirements and arrangements for portfolio elements not covered by this report are set out in Appendix 1.

Administrative Appeals Tribunal

Administrative Review Council

Australasian Centre for Policing Research

Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity

Australian Crime Commission

Australian Customs Service

Australian Federal Police

Australian Government Solicitor

Australian Institute of Criminology

Australian Institute of Police Management

Australian Law Reform Commission

Australian Security Intelligence Organisation

Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre

Classification Board

Classification Review Board

Copyright Tribunal of Australia

Criminology Research Council


Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

Family Court of Australia

Family Law Council

Federal Court of Australia

Federal Magistrates Court of Australia

High Court of Australia

Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission

Insolvency and Trustee Service Australia

National Capital Authority

National Crime Statistics Unit

National Institute of Forensic Science

National Native Title Tribunal

Office of Parliamentary Counsel

Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions

Figure 1: Organisational structure, outcomes and outputs
Figure 1: Organisational structure, outcomes and outputs

[Click on the image above to see a larger version]

Chapter 3 About the Department

Role and mission

The Attorney-General’s Department serves the people of Australia by providing essential expert support to the Government in the maintenance and improvement of Australia’s system of law and justice and its national security and emergency management systems.

The Department is the central policy and coordinating element of the Attorney-General’s portfolio, for which the Attorney-General and the Minister for Home Affairs are responsible.

The mission of the Attorney-General’s Department is achieving a just and secure society.

In pursuing this mission, the Department works towards achieving three outcomes:

Outcome 1: An equitable and accessible system of federal civil justice

Outcome 2: Coordinated federal criminal justice, security and emergency management activity, for a safer Australia

Outcome 3: Assisting regions to manage their own futures.

The administrative and policy functions in Outcome 3, relating to the administration of the Territories and natural disaster relief and mitigation, were transferred to the Department under the Administrative Arrangements Order (AAO) of 3 December 2007. The policy and administrative functions relating to privacy and freedom of information were transferred from the Department to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet under the same AAO.

The Department’s outcomes and outputs structure and performance targets are set out each year in the Portfolio Budget Statements and the Portfolio Additional Estimates Statements. This Annual Report responds directly to the performance measures established in these documents, giving a clear indication of the Department’s intended and actual performance for the year.

Organisational structure

The Department’s organisational structure is aligned as closely as possible with the outcomes and outputs structure, as shown in Figure 1.

The Deputy Secretary, Civil Justice and Legal Services Group, has responsibility for outputs within Outcome 1 and the output within Outcome 3 relating to services to the Territories.

The Deputy Secretary, National Security and Criminal Justice Group, is responsible for outputs within Outcome 2 and the output within Outcome 3 relating to natural disaster relief and mitigation.

The General Manager Corporate Services Group, the General Manager Financial Services Group, and the General Manager Information and Knowledge Services Group support the two deputy secretaries in producing all the Department’s outputs.


The functions of the divisions, offices and groups, as at 30 June 2008, are outlined below.

Civil Justice and Legal Services Group

The Civil Justice Division provides legal policy advice on domestic and international family law and marriage law, intercountry adoption, administrative law, evidence law, legislative instruments, service and execution of process, private international law, alternative dispute resolution, and federal courts and tribunals.

The Division establishes and manages support services for families to resolve disputes in the best interests of their children and intercountry adoption programs to ensure compliance with international obligations. It also administers the Marriage Celebrants Program. An officer of the Division is the Registrar of Marriage Celebrants.

The Division promotes international cooperation on civil legal procedure and family law matters and handles requests for judicial assistance in international civil law and family law matters, including child abduction and access.

It provides support to the Administrative Review Council, the National Alternative Dispute Resolution Advisory Council and the Family Law Council.

The Classification, Human Rights and Copyright Division is responsible for legal and policy advice on human rights, classification, copyright and electronic transactions law and issues. The Division provides secretariat support to the Classification Board and the Classification Review Board and provides advice on operational issues to the Minister. The Division also runs the Community Liaison Scheme and provides classification training for industry and government. The Division provides departmental support for the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. The Division includes the Commonwealth Copyright Administration, which is responsible for the management of copyright in published written materials on behalf of Australian Government agencies. The Division negotiates and administers agreements with copyright collecting societies for Australian Government use of copyright material.

The Office of International Law provides legal advice and advocacy services on issues involving international law and is responsible for the conduct of international litigation. It assists with the development and implementation of international law projects and undertakes international human rights report writing and complaints work. It assists in the negotiation of treaties, including bilateral free trade agreements, and in the conduct of international litigation, including World Trade Organization litigation. The Trade Measures Review Officer, located within the Office of International Law, carries out the statutory function of reviewing decisions relating to anti-dumping and countervailing duties.

The Office of Legislative Drafting and Publishing is responsible for drafting regulations and other legislative instruments; providing advice to the Attorney-General, ministers, departments and agencies about drafting and interpreting legislative instruments; operating the Federal Register of Legislative Instruments (FRLI); compiling Commonwealth Acts and Regulations; publishing Commonwealth legislation in electronic form on the ComLaw and FRLI websites; printing and distributing Acts and Select Legislative Instruments; and publishing the Government Notices series of the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette.

The Territories and Native Title Division was formed in January 2008, comprising the Territories East and Territories West branches (previously within the former Department of Transport and Regional Services), the Native Title Unit and the International Legal Services Policy Section.

The two Territories branches administer a number of programs that support the Territories in managing their own affairs and provide essential services and infrastructure where there is no equivalent State-type Government to provide these services.

The Division’s Native Title Unit is responsible for formulating and providing policy advice to the Attorney-General on native title and assisting the Attorney-General in the administration of the Native Title Act 1993 (NTA). Functions include managing the Australian Government’s involvement in native title matters, monitoring and advising on the native title system and the operation of the NTA, and providing advice to Australian Government agencies on carrying out future acts under the NTA.

The International Legal Services Policy Section has a dual function in providing a secretariat to the International Legal Services Advisory Council and advice to the Attorney-General on international legal services policy matters, including in relation to engaging in legal services market access negotiations and international legal cooperation activities.

The Indigenous Justice and Legal Assistance Division is responsible for the development, implementation and administration of Australian Government legal assistance policy and programs. The Division is also responsible for the administration of various law and justice programs to assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, along with the provision of strategic policy advice to the Government.

The Legal Services and Personal Property Securities Division is responsible for policy advice and legal services on constitutional issues and personal property securities law.

The Division supports the Attorney-General in his role as the First Law Officer. The Office of Legal Services Coordination in the Division administers the Legal Services Directions 2005 to ensure all Commonwealth agencies receive consistent and well-coordinated legal services.

It is responsible for advising the Attorney-General on constitutional policy issues and, with the Insolvency and Trustee Service Australia, on bankruptcy policy.

The Division is responsible for legal services and policy advice on reforms to Australia’s personal property securities law and practice and the development of a national electronic register which will replace a range of existing Commonwealth, State and Territory personal property securities registers.

National Security and Criminal Justice Group

The Criminal Justice Division is responsible for policy advice to the Attorney-General and Minister for Home Affairs and the administration and improvement of legislation relating to criminal law and the criminal justice process.

The Division is also responsible for policy matters relating to operational law enforcement agencies, illicit drugs, identity security, fraud against the Australian Government, firearms, transnational organised crime, including trafficking in persons, anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing, corruption and foreign bribery.

It administers the National Community Crime Prevention Programme, the Secure Schools Program, the Safer Suburbs plan and programs of expenditure funded under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

The Division is responsible for managing casework requests for the international transfer of prisoners and federal prisoners’ administration.

It also provides secretariat support to the Ministerial Council on the Administration of Justice.

The International Crime Cooperation Division is responsible for international cooperation in criminal matters and related policy issues.

It is the Australian Central Authority for mutual assistance in criminal matters and extradition and undertakes mutual assistance and extradition casework and policy development.

The Division negotiates treaties on mutual assistance, extradition and the international transfer of prisoners. It provides assistance and capacity building to countries in South-East Asia and the South Pacific on international crime cooperation issues and advises the Attorney-General and the Minister for Home Affairs on matters relating to the administration of Australian legislation governing extradition, mutual assistance and other forms of international cooperation against crime.

The Security and Critical Infrastructure Division is responsible for key aspects of national security and critical infrastructure protection policy. This includes responsibility for electronic security and the administration and development of relevant legislation; for example, legislation dealing with counter-terrorism offences and telecommunications interception powers.

The Division coordinates national security and counter-terrorism matters across the Department and the portfolio and interfaces with other departments and agencies in a whole-of-government context.

The Division provides national leadership and coordination in the protection of Australia’s critical infrastructure. To achieve this objective, SCID works closely with the business sector to identify critical infrastructure protection and electronic security strategies. This close and productive working partnership with business is a unique characteristic of Australia’s approach to these issues.

Emergency Management Australia, in conjunction with a wide range of Australian Government authorities, State and Territory agencies, local government and industry bodies, contributes to Australia’s emergency management ability through a wide range of activities, including:

  • developing strategic policy
  • sponsoring partnerships between emergency management and other emergency sector stakeholders
  • identifying capability gaps, developing education programs, conducting exercises and purchasing equipment
  • undertaking natural disaster mitigation activities, and
  • developing community awareness and warnings programs.

EMA manages the consequences of disasters by coordinating Australian Government disaster assistance domestically on request from States or Territories, and internationally in conjunction with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and AusAID.

Also in conjunction with DFAT and AusAID, EMA continues to have a significant relationship with the countries of the South Pacific region, contributing to emergency preparedness in the region, particularly through the Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

The Protective Security Coordination Centre coordinates and manages Australia’s protective security and counter-terrorism and crisis management arrangements in cooperation with Australian Government, State and Territory agencies.

The PSCC also supports the Attorney-General and the Minister for Home Affairs by providing policy advice and implementing government policy in the field of protective security, including training and security vetting services.

The PSCC supports the operational and related policy programs of the National Counter-Terrorism Committee, coordinating NCTC training, exercise, development and equipment procurement programs as well as providing executive and secretariat support to a number of NCTC sub-committees and working groups. It administers the NCTC Administered Fund.

The PSCC coordinates protective security arrangements for at-risk Australian high office holders, members of the diplomatic and consular community and visiting foreign dignitaries as well as for the Prime Minister’s overseas travel. The PSCC’s role in dignitary protection and physical security responsibilities is overarching and strategic, drawing together a range of stakeholders.

The Department is responsible for implementing and maintaining plans for continuity of government arrangements that provide for near normal business functions for Cabinet and the Federal Executive Council in the event of a national emergency.

Other responsibilities include coordinating information between the Australian Government and States and Territories on national security and counter-terrorism matters, and operating the National Security Hotline.

AusCheck—the Australian Background Checking Service—is responsible for coordinating the background criminal and security checks on applicants for Aviation Security Identification Cards and Maritime Security Identification Cards. It began providing checking services on 3 September 2007.

AusCheck ensures the consistent application of statutory requirements, enhanced procedural fairness and the appropriate protection of sensitive personal information. It has greatly reduced the time taken to complete background checks: in the first 12 months of operations, AusCheck received more than 100,000 requests for background checks, processing 98 per cent of all applications in less than 20 days and finalising 66 per cent of all applications in less than five days. Those results are a considerable improvement on processing times for previous background checking schemes.

AusCheck clients report that not only is the AusCheck system faster, it also reduces administrative costs, as fewer resources are required to chase up outstanding applications and reconcile complex billing arrangements.

Corporate Services Group

The Corporate Services Group provides administrative advice and services to the Executive, the Attorney-General and the Minister for Home Affairs. It also provides general support to the Department, including advice and services relating to human and physical resources, ministerial and parliamentary matters, public affairs, freedom of information, international travel, corporate governance and performance.

Financial Services Group

The Financial Services Group provides support to the Secretary and the senior management group in discharging the financial management responsibilities of the Department in accordance with relevant legislation.

In enhancing the accuracy, reliability and consistency of financial information across the Department, the Group is responsible for:

  • the strategic and operational aspects of financial planning, management reporting and estimates preparation
  • the coordination and preparation of portfolio budget documents, supported by the internal budget process
  • the annual audited financial statements
  • the maintenance of the financial framework, including the Chief Executive’s Instructions, financial authorisations and delegations, Certificate of Compliance reporting and the Financial Guidance and Procedure Manual
  • accounts processing
  • cash management, including Collector of Public Monies and treasury functions, and
  • financial monitoring of agencies within the portfolio.

Information and Knowledge Services Group

The Information and Knowledge Services Group provides services and support in the areas of information technology and communications, information systems development and information management (including knowledge management, records management and archival services). The Group is responsible for library services, voice and data communications, the Australian Secure Network, IT security matters and contract management, intranet services and internet services. The Group also provides secure interagency communications between Commonwealth agencies and the States and Territories during a crisis.

Some examples of the Department’s Internet services are the Attorney-General’s Department website, http://ag.aglink.ag.gov.au; Family Relationships Online at www.familyrelationships.gov.au; and ComLaw, a searchable list of Commonwealth legislation and legislative instruments, at www.comlaw.gov.au.

Chapter 4 Snapshots: finance and staffing

Financial performance summary

The total annual appropriation funding for the Department for 2007–08 was $1,025.4 million, comprising $216.9 million for departmental outputs and $808.5 million for administered expenses.

The Department also received appropriation funding of $35.8 million in equity injections for departmental capital projects, $10.5 million for administered assets, $2.1 million for previous years’ outputs and $26.9 million spent from special appropriations.

See Chapter 10 for information on the Department’s financial performance.

Figure 2: Appropriations, 2007–08

Figure 2: Appropriations, 2007–08 

Staffing summary

As at 30 June 2008, the Department had a workforce of 1,544, an increase of 16.2 per cent on numbers for the previous year. Of this workforce 1,353 staff were ongoing employees, 148 were non-ongoing and 43 were employed on a casual basis, with 92.3 per cent of employees working full-time hours, and 7.7 per cent working part-time hours. In line with the Department’s policy on flexible working conditions, the number of employees accepting the option of part-time work increased by 1.4 per cent.

The Department primarily operates from Canberra, where 93.5 per cent of the workforce are located. The remainder of the Department’s staff work from Mount Macedon, Victoria (2.6 per cent), Sydney, New South Wales (2.5 per cent), and regional locations throughout Australia (1.4 per cent).

The Department employs a diverse workforce. The number of females in the Department, accounting for 64.9 per cent of the workforce (an increase of 5.6 per cent from 2006–07), is consistent with trends in the wider APS. The workforce age profile is comparatively younger than for other APS agencies, with the bulk of the workforce aged between 21 and 40 years. In addition, employees from non-English speaking backgrounds represented 3.45 per cent of the workforce; staff identifying as Indigenous represented 1.1 per cent; and people with disabilities, 1.7 per cent. The Department’s employment of Indigenous people and people with disabilities is consistent with levels in the broader APS. The Department will make a concerted effort to increase those levels in the coming years.

Staff turnover increased in 2007–08, with 537 staff (ongoing and non-ongoing) ceasing employment. The average length of service for staff is 3.7 years. Of the ongoing staff who ceased employment with the Department, 127 transferred to other APS agencies on promotion or ongoing transfer.

A full staffing profile for the Department, excluding casual employees, is provided in Appendix 8.