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 Annual Report 2008-09 Management and Accountability

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Chapter 9 Corporate governance

The Attorney-General’s Department’s sound governance framework includes risk management, project management, business continuity, performance management, audit and evaluation and financial management.

The Department underwent an organisational audit in 2008 conducted by Mr Roger Beale AO. The audit findings prompted a restructure of the Department and with it, a reshaping of the governance structures.

Senior leadership


Roger Wilkins AO—since 1 September 2008

Robert Cornall AO—until 31 August 2008

Deputy secretaries

Renée Leon, Strategic Policy and Coordination Group—since 11 May 2009

Ian Govey, Civil Justice and Legal Services Group

Miles Jordana, National Security and Criminal Justice Group

First assistant secretaries

Iain Anderson, Priorities and Coordination Division

Bill Campbell QC, Office of International Law

Sue Chapman, People, Information and Technology Division

James Graham, Office of Legislative Drafting

Maggie Jackson, International Crime Cooperation Division

Katherine Jones, Social Inclusion Division

Elizabeth Kelly, Criminal Justice Division

Kathy Leigh, Access to Justice Division

Stephen Lutze, Finance and Property Division

Philippa Lynch, Territories and Information Law Division

Geoff McDonald PSM, National Security Law and Policy Division

Tony Pearce, Emergency Management Australia Division

James Popple, Civil Law Division

Mike Rothery, National Security Resilience Division

Martin Studdert AM, National Security Capability Development Division

Photo: Left to right: Ian Govey, Renée Leon, Roger Wilkins AO and Miles Jordana.  

Left to right: Ian Govey, Renée Leon, Roger Wilkins AO and Miles Jordana.

Governance framework

The core elements of the Department’s governance framework are:

  • Secretary’s Leadership Group
  • Departmental Operations Executive Committee
  • Audit Committee
  • Information Technology Executive Committee, and
  • Project Management Office.

Other important elements include the business resilience framework (business continuity, risk management and fraud control), performance reporting—both financial and non-financial—and business planning processes, including the strategic plan.

Figure 8: Planning and performance framework, 2008–09

Figure 8: Planning and performance framework, 2008–09  

Senior management committees

The Secretary’s Leadership Group comprises the Secretary and the three Deputy Secretaries. It provides advice to the Secretary on a wide range of key strategic matters of corporate importance and sets the Department’s strategic direction. The group meets weekly.

The Departmental Operations Executive Committee has been established to foster strategic debate on a range of issues of corporate importance. The Deputy Secretary, Strategic Policy and Coordination Group chairs the committee and membership comprises each First Assistant Secretary and the other two Deputy Secretaries. This committee was established in response to the Beale organisational audit, which recommended replacing the previous Executive Committee and Senior Management Group.

The Audit Committee comprises a chair, who is external to the Department, and four members, one of whom is external to the Department. The Audit Committee met five times during 2008–09 (Table 23). The Secretary; the General Manager, People, Information and Technology Division; the Chief Financial Officer; the Chief Audit Executive; the internal auditor and the Australian National Audit Office were all represented at all meetings. The Secretary recently reappointed the chair and the external member for a further term.

Table 23: Audit Committee membership and meeting attendance 2008–09

Member Role Meetings eligible to attend Meetings attended
Will Laurie Independent chair 5 5
Jennifer Clark External member 5 5
Philippa Lynch Internal member 5 4
Andrew Walter Internal member 5 5
Paul Pfitzner (July 2008 to Oct 2008) Chief Audit Executive 2 1
Alison Green (Nov 2008 to Feb 2009) Chief Audit Executive 2 3
Tim Hainsworth (since March 2009) Chief Audit Executive 2 2
Sue Chapman Observer 5 3
Stephen Lutze (since October 2008) Observer 3 3

The Information Technology Executive Committee provides a formal governance framework for information technology, based on the internationally recognised CobiT standard. The Committee monitors information technology activities from a business perspective. Its membership comprises senior management from the People, Information and Technology Division, two deputy secretaries (or nominee), and representatives from the line areas as well as the Chief Financial Officer. The General Manager of the People, Information and Technology Division chairs it. The Committee met four times during the year, in accordance with the Information Technology Executive Committee charter.

Project management office

The Department established a project management office within the People, Information and Technology Division to increase the level of project management discipline initially within the corporate areas and then more generally across the Department.

It has also adopted a scaleable project management framework that can be used for projects across the broad spectrum of projects and programs in the Department. The focus of this initiative is to increase the level of rigour to all projects, from planning to implementation.

Project management office staff are working closely with all divisions to provide assistance and advice to staff in managing their information technology-based projects; feedback received indicates this input is being well received. The next step in developing this approach is to establish regular reporting for major policy and program initiatives and then, by December 2009, implementation of a portfolio management framework for the Department.

Planning and review

Beale review

The Beale review was required to address four significant issues, namely:

a) the capacity of the Department, and the portfolio, to more broadly support the Attorney-General in his First Law Officer role

b) the Department’s ability to generate and prosecute new strategic ideas in law reform and policy, particularly where these require working across Branch and Divisional boundaries to deliver whole-of-department outcomes that are important for government priorities

c) the Department’s capacity to support the Secretary, the Minister for Home Affairs and the Attorney-General in leading the portfolio as a whole and ensuring that portfolio agencies are coordinated sufficiently to achieve the Government’s objectives and priorities, and

d) the Prime Minister’s first National Security Statement on 4 December 2008 and the ‘Report of the Review of Homeland Security Arrangements’ by RC Smith AO, June 2008.

The audit made observations and recommendations about organisational structure and associated resource allocation changes; governance changes within the department and portfolio; and changes in the way in which priorities are set within the portfolio, accountabilities described, and performance measured, reported and assessed.

A new group, called the Strategic Policy and Coordination Group, has been established to focus on cross-department and cross-portfolio initiatives. A particular focus of this group will be better cross-portfolio coordination of issues generally but with a particular emphasis on the Budget process. A Deputy Secretary heads this group.

The new group also encompasses the corporate support functions, which previously resided in the three support divisions. The corporate centre is now a more strategically focused entity within the Department and is capable of delivering better outcomes than the previous structure.

The restructure arising from the Beale review better supports the Attorney-General’s and the Minister’s priorities and ensures the Department’s resources are allocated in accordance with these priorities. The new structure ensures the Department can deliver strategically focused outcomes to the Secretary and the Government.

Restructure of the Department’s governance committees after the audit has also resulted in senior management adopting a greater strategic focus on issues within the Department.

Strategic and business planning

The Beale review also made a number of recommendations to significantly enhance the Department’s strategic planning and performance management capability.

The Department has instituted a disciplined strategic and business planning process to identify priorities and objectives for the year ahead. Cascading down from the Departmental strategic plan, and divisional and branch business plans, are individual work plans which will clearly articulate employees’ performance expectations and capability gaps. The work plans will be the core component of the performance improvement program in the Department. This represents a significant improvement on past systems.

The value to the Department in this enhanced business planning process is a very clear integration between all levels of planning in the Department and individual performance management. The Department can now clearly demonstrate clear links between the Strategic Plan and division business plans, branch plans and individual work plans.

Business continuity planning

The Department conducted two business continuity exercises in the last 12 months. The first was a desktop exercise reviewing the current operability of the Crisis Management Team, including understanding the roles and responsibilities of crisis management team members and to identify any gaps in the crises management arrangements.

The second exercise was a ‘live’ exercise that dispatched the crisis management team to the contingency site in response to a threat to part of the parliamentary zone. The exercise focused on the team being able to identify applicable business critical functions and managing the Department from the contingency site.

The benefit realised from these two exercises was a heightened understanding and knowledge of the roles and responsibilities of all crisis management team members and the knowledge that in the event that a real incident was to occur, the Department’s crisis management team is well placed to respond to any such threat.

The Department has recently established a new section responsible for Business Continuity Management. The mandate for this section is to manage development and testing of business continuity plans across the Department, and to develop the capability of divisions in reviewing and testing business continuity plans.

Risk management

The Department’s risk management plan contains a broad range of operational risks that are common to each division. Each division is required to provide its own treatment strategies and residual risk ratings using the ASNZS 4360:2004 risk assessment methodology.

The Department’s risk framework is currently undergoing a significant review to integrate risk management, business continuity, fraud control and crisis management into a resilience framework. This includes implementing an enterprise-wide risk management strategy, developing a strategic risk register, implementing the new international risk management standard (ISO31000), and integrating business and risk planning, which will in turn, deliver ownership of operational risks to the divisions.

The Department reviewed its fraud control plan in 2007 to ensure it fully complies with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines. The Audit Committee endorsed the plan and the Department has met all its reporting obligations under the plan.

The next review of the fraud control plan is due for completion by December 2009.

Those risks in the plan that have a residual rating of high or greater are reviewed twice a year in conjunction with the review of the risk management plan.

Fraud awareness training was provided as part of the Understanding your accountabilities as a public servant training course on 12 occasions during the year; 116 employees participated.

No instances of fraud were detected during the year.


I, Roger Wilkins, certify that I am satisfied that for 2008–09, the Attorney-General’s Department has had:

  • appropriate fraud risk assessments and a fraud control plan prepared that complies with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines
  • appropriate fraud prevention, detection, investigation and reporting procedures and processes in place, and
  • annual fraud data collected and reported in compliance with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines.

Roger Wilkins AO
27 August 2009

Internal audit arrangements

The Department’s Audit Committee is appointed by, and is responsible to the Secretary. It advises the Secretary on the Department’s:

  • systems of internal control
  • risk management
  • financial reporting and control of public money and assets
  • compliance with relevant laws, rules, regulations and directions, and
  • internal and external audit matters.

Since 1 July 2002, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu has performed the internal audit and evaluation function under an outsourced arrangement overseen by the Audit Committee and the Chief Audit Executive. That arrangement was renewed from 1 July 2007 for a further three years following an open tender process.

Activities of the Audit Committee

The range of internal audit reports the Audit Committee considered in 2008–09 included:

  • compliance with and management of privacy obligations
  • integration of the administration of external Territories
  • child abduction program
  • recruitment operations, and
  • information technology security.

Conduct and ethics

The Attorney-General’s Department Agreement 2007 contains a commitment by the parties to uphold the Australian Public Service (APS) Values and to comply with the APS Code of Conduct. The Department offers online training on the Values and Code of Conduct, to all staff. All new staff are encouraged to complete the online training module and to access the APS Commission induction module Your Guide to Working in the Australian Public Service. All people who join the Department as employees are provided with a copy of the APS Values and Code of Conduct, as well as relevant excerpts from the Crimes Act 1914. They are required to sign a statement that they have read and understood these provisions before beginning employment with the Department.

All new employees are expected to undertake the Understanding your accountabilities as a public servant training course, which sets out the proper conduct and ethical behaviour expected of staff. During 2008–09, 116 employees attended this program. Since the introduction of the program, 1,287 employees have attended.

All Senior Executive Service (SES) employees are provided with a copy of the publication APS Values and Code of Conduct in practice: a guide to official conduct for APS employees and agency heads.

The APS Values, Code of Conduct, Chief Executive’s Instructions and other material relevant to ethical conduct are incorporated, as appropriate, into relevant departmental policies, guidelines and instructions and are available on the intranet. During 2008–09, 246 employees attended the Chief Executive’s Instructions internal training program, which was introduced in 2007.

Service charters

The Department’s service charter articulates the nature and level of services provided to its clients and provides a reference point against which clients can comment on the Department’s performance. The service charter also refers clients to information about how to make complaints or comment on performance. The charter is available here.

A charter, covering the International Child Abduction, Child Support and Civil Procedure, supplements the Department’s service charter.

A report of the service charter operations is at Appendix 3.

Senior Executive Service remuneration

Most of the Department’s SES employees have their remuneration and other conditions of employment established by Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) made under the Workplace Relations Act 1996. In line with the Government’s Employment Bargaining Framework, no new AWAs have been issued since February 2008 and all new SES employees have been offered common law contracts. Further information about SES remuneration appears on page 217.

Media and communications

A range of awareness and information products was developed to support programs managed by the Department during the year. These included information brochures and materials in support of initiatives as diverse as family law, anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism funding, film and literature classification, emergency services and management of Australian territories.

The Public Affairs Branch helped areas of the Department prepare 135 speeches for the Attorney-General and the Minister for Home Affairs. The branch wrote or edited 506 media releases and handled 312 media enquiries.

The Department provided whole-of-government communication support for a range of events during the year, including the Influenza A H1N1 (human swine flu) pandemic.

The Department’s public affairs team helped plan and participate in the media management and public communication aspects of various exercises held to test preparedness for terrorism and natural disaster emergencies. Mercury 08 was one such multijurisdictional counter-terrorism exercise. Held in October 2008 it tested public communications, messaging and media response arrangements as part of a wider range of operational objectives.

The release of the second edition of the Emergency Warnings Choosing Your Words guide was a major outcome of the National Broadcast of Emergency Warnings project. Other achievements included a training module on the role of emergency managers and media during an incident and hosting the second annual conference of government and media stakeholders.

The Department provided communications support as part of its secretariat role to the independent committee conducting the National Human Rights Consultation as it visited communities around Australia.

The National Security Information Campaign continued nationally during the year. Since 2002 the campaign has promoted the National Security Hotline for reporting matters of potential threat to Australia’s national security. The campaign included television, radio, print, outdoor and internet advertising during February–March and May–June.

Communications internal to the Department included information to staff over an extended period about relocation to the Department’s new headquarters at 3–5 National Circuit, Barton. The communication assisted the smooth transition to the new accommodation.

Reconciliation Action Plan and Reconciliation Committee

The Reconciliation Committee continues to promote and implement the Reconciliation Action Plan’s objectives. Committee members include Indigenous and non-Indigenous representatives from a range of areas across the Department who meet quarterly.

The Committee reviewed the original Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) and built on its success in developing a new Action Plan for 2008–11.

The Action Plan identifies the steps the Department will take to build relationships and enhance the respect it has for Indigenous Australians in carrying out its business. The Committee identified new actions and principles that will inform the new Action Plan, namely: respect, relationships and opportunities.

The Committee officially launched the 2008–11 Action Plan in September 2008, with a speech from the Secretary, a Welcome to Country ceremony by Indigenous Elder, Louise Brown, and entertainment by a local Indigenous youth, Adam Shipp. A range of staff from across the Department attended the launch.

The Action Plan sets a three-year vision for reconciliation within the Attorney-General’s Department. It will be reviewed annually as targets are met and new actions identified.

Some key achievements include:

  • The Department took a lead role in monitoring portfolio agency Action Plans; to this end, it undertook an audit in late 2008. Heads of portfolio agencies without plans were encouraged to develop a plan to provide a positive link between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, and explore how reconciliation can advance organisational objectives.
  • The committee organised a ‘RAP Refresh’ workshop to help portfolio agencies develop and further refine plans; Reconciliation Australia delivered the workshop. Representatives from 17 portfolio agencies attended and as a result are now aware of the requirement to have a Reconciliation Action Plan in place.
  • The Department conducted ‘talking days’ to provide a forum for members of the local Indigenous community to discuss local community issues. Talking days raised awareness, and provided insight and valuable advice on how the Department can continue to build reconciliation with the local community.
  • The Department’s staff were encouraged to take part in NAIDOC Week events and, in so doing, they helped celebrate the vibrancy and enduring influence of Australia’s Indigenous people.
  • The Department’s Indigenous Employees Network helped organise NAIDOC Week activities. These included an Indigenous cultural display in the Library, profiling of seven of the Department’s Indigenous staff through photographs and a multi-media display, and production of an Indigenous Employment Programs booklet.

Information technology

The Department manages information technology using a formal governance framework, based on the internationally recognised CobiT standard. The Information Technology Executive Committee monitors information technology activities from a business perspective (see page 183). The Department is also progressing a number of related activities that will strengthen its information technology governance; these activities include formation of a Project Management Office, review of the Department’s Enterprise Architectures, and development of a client engagement strategy.

Information technology infrastructure

The Department’s wide area network links 16 Canberra locations, the Emergency Management Australia Institute in Mount Macedon, and offices in Sydney, Perth, Melbourne, Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Norfolk Island and Jervis Bay.

The Information Communications and Technology Operations Branch successfully completed major upgrades and enhancements to the Department’s data network, email system, electronic data storage facilities, electronic document management system and active directory environment. A technology refresh of the Department’s desktop computers was undertaken in conjunction with the Department’s move to new offices in 2009. A new VoIP telephone system has also been introduced and an upgrade of the standard operating environment is planned.

The Department introduced a new secure communications and information sharing capability in April 2009. This capability enables effective communications on national security matters, ensures security classified information is protected appropriately, and allows seamless transfer of information to other Australian Government and State and Territory agencies.

Pacific ‘twinning’

The Department through the AusAID Pacific Governance Support Program hosted the first regional workshop for Pacific law librarians, in Vanuatu on 11–14 May 2009. The theme of the workshop was Communities and Collaboration, which was fitting as the group of 20 from 10 Pacific nations transformed from isolated workers into what is now known as the Pacific Islands Law Library Community. Participants ranged in experience and training but all took on the challenges of the workshop, including delivering a presentation on their own library to the group. The computer room at the University of the South Pacific was used for hands-on legal research and for GovDex[1] training. GovDex was used to set up a secure collaborative site for the librarians to share information and resources. The Pacific Islands Legal Information Institute (PacLII) also provided training to the librarians during the workshop. This training aimed to enable the librarians to teach legal staff in their workplaces how to research Pacific legal materials using the PacLII database.

Staff from the People, Information and Technology Division worked in Samoa and Tonga from 23 to 31 May 2009 as part of a Pacific Governance Support Program sponsored by AusAID. The program’s objective was to increase the effectiveness of legal information management and research in ‘twinned’ agencies in Tonga and Samoa. The Department’s Lionel Murphy Library has been ‘twinned’ with law office libraries in the South Pacific since 1992.

The team assessed and provided advice on a range of technical and information management practices; and followed up on recommendations made during previous visits.

Other key information technology outcomes

During the past year, the information technology services and infrastructure delivered by the People, Information and Technology Division have contributed directly to managing natural disaster responses, family crisis centres, the Personal Properties Securities Register, the National Security Hotline, international prisoner exchange, grants, film and literature classification, and a range of interagency collaboration exercises, including the Australian Disaster Information Network.

Corrections to errors

The following statements in the 2007–08 Annual Report were identified as incorrect:

  • On page 70 of the Attorney-General’s Department 2007–08 Annual Report, in Table 3: Demand for drafting, advising and publishing services for 2006–07 to 2007–08, the figures reported for reprints published, number of pages are incorrect, the table below provides the information:
    2006–07 2007–08
    As reported Correct
    As reported Correct
    Reprints published, number of pages 9,486 13,953 12,526 7,614
  • On page 75 of the Attorney-General’s Department 2007–08 Annual Report, for the administered item, Publication of Acts and Select Legislative Instruments, the total number of reprints published was reported as 25, the correct figure is 30.
  • On page 202, expenditure on external legal services for 2007–08 was reported as $9.012 million this figure should have been $8.572 million.
  • On page 334 of the Attorney-General’s Department 2007–08 Annual Report relating to consultancy services let during 2007–08, Table 11 shows three consultancies for Oakton AA Services Pty Ltd for $52,206, $112,284 and $133,305. This is incorrect as it was one consultancy with two extensions together totalling $133,305.
  • On page 336 of the Attorney-General’s Department 2007–08 Annual Report Table 12 shows that the payment made to Universal McCann for the National Security Campaign media buy was $11,978,578. The correct figure should have read $9,079,195.
  • On page 337, ‘Appendix 7—Legal Services Expenditure’ an amount of $0.440 million relating to obligations under bilateral arrangements was included in the external expenditure on solicitors in error. The figures should have been reported as follows:
    2007–08 2007–08
    Incorrect detail Correct detail
    Total legal services expenditure $9,652,441 $9,212,438
    Total external legal services expenditure $9,011,918 $8,571,916
    External expenditure on solicitors $7,640,940 $7,200,938


Our people

Secure communications

Image: Attorney-General's Department  

we have combined email and voice communications … now they are secure

What was the mission? With an eight-month timeframe, build a combined email and voice network from scratch that adheres to mandatory security requirements and provides a friendly experience for staff using a new system.

Who chose to accept it? Seven staff from the Secure Capability Development Section were involved in designing and implementing the network. Staff from the Secure Operations and Secure Client Services sections also provided key support with the roll-out in our new building at 3–5 National Circuit and end user training.

What was the collateral damage? Nil. The network was delivered on time and within budget.

What is the outcome? The Department is now able to manage, store and manipulate its own classified data, through a system that shares key infrastructure with other government secure networks to achieve economies of scale and operational efficiencies. This means staff now have easy and efficient methods of handling secure information and communications.

Everyone involved in this project is feeling a great sense of achievement. As one of the operational team members said ‘It’s excellent that we have now combined email and voice communications, including teleconferences and that they are secure, both internally and with other government secure networks. This is a huge buzz for those of us involved in getting this project up and running. It was particularly tough, especially given the tight timeframe but thanks to a major team effort, we got it all done and done well’.

The result is that all staff now enjoy a secure work environment that meets the Department’s current and future needs. Mission accomplished.

Chapter 10 External scrutiny

During 2008–09 the Department’s operations were subject to external scrutiny from the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO), the courts, parliamentary committees, the Commonwealth Ombudsman, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, the Australian Human Rights Commission, the Office of Evaluations and Audit, and the Northern Territory Emergency Response Review Board.

Reports by the Australian National Audit Office

Audit of construction of the Immigration Detention Centre on Christmas Island

The Auditor-General undertook a performance audit of the construction of the Immigration Detention Centre on Christmas Island as part of the ANAO’s Planned Audit Work Program. Transfer of the Territories function to the Department following the 2007 election resulted in the audit examining files transferred to the Department that relate to infrastructure works, in support of the main construction contract, that were delivered by the Territories function.

The report of the audit was tabled in Parliament on 23 June 2009. The Department supported the recommendations on the need for robust management of major projects.

Audit of National Identity Security Strategy

In 2009 the ANAO began a performance audit of the National Identity Security Strategy and will finalise the report in late 2009. The audit seeks to assess management of the strategy and progress achieved.

Report on Emergency Management Australia

The report, titled Emergency Management Australia (ANAO Audit Report No. 27 2007–08), was tabled in Parliament on 16 April 2008.

The audit assessed how well EMA is meeting its objective of providing national leadership in development of measures to reduce risk to communities and manage the consequences of disasters.

As reported in the Attorney-General’s 2007–08 Annual Report, the ANAO made five recommendations focused on helping EMA achieve its objectives.

Since then the Department has been implementing the recommendations and progress to date is as follows:

  1. In order to assist management decision making and to inform Parliament about performance, EMA develop and report appropriate measures for its key emergency management activities and outcomes.

    —Measures are linked to key activities and outcomes reviewed. This is reflected in the 2008–09 Portfolio Budget Statements.

  2. In order to maximise the benefit of emergency management training activities, EMA periodically reviews its approach to delivering individual training courses, to ensure the most appropriate delivery mechanism is used commensurate with training objectives.

    —A major review of education courses and the role of the Emergency Management Australia Institute in supporting the States and Territories is now underway.

  3. That EMA maintain the EMA Internet site to ensure that material is appropriate, current and readily accessible for users.

    —The EMA website is being reviewed and updated.

  4. To ensure that grant conditions are satisfied, EMA enhance procedures to monitor the progress of projects and follow up those behind schedule or not fulfilling funding agreement requirements.

    —Closer scrutiny is being applied to projects with the cooperation of jurisdictions resulting in a significant increase in project acquittal.

  5. To facilitate EMA’s response to requests for assistance in overseas emergency management situations, a statement of the broad principles, responsibilities and performance expectations to apply when EMA is involved in overseas operations be developed and agreed between EMA, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, AusAID and other relevant stakeholders.

    —The Attorney-General’s Department, through EMA, is working with AusAID to review the Australian Government Overseas Disaster Assistance Plan with a view to:
    • clarifying roles, responsibilities, and processes and defining how the Department, AusAID and the States and Territories will work more effectively together
    • managing the expectations of all stakeholders, and
    • providing supporting tools, intelligence, and training for effective implementation of the plan.

AusAID and the Attorney-General’s Department have agreed in principle on how they will jointly support developing and maintaining the Urban Search and Rescue capability and capacity. Discussions are continuing[2] on the procedure for activating and deploying Australia’s Urban Search and Rescue capability in support of other countries.

The report, Emergency Management Australia (ANAO Audit Report No. 27 2007–08), can be found on the ANAO website.

Judicial decisions

Tervonen v Minister for Home Affairs; Tervonen v Republic of Finland & Anor [2009] HCA Trans 139 (19 June 2009)

In 2006, the Republic of Finland sought the extradition of Mr Jan Tervonen to face prosecution for fraud and company law related offences. The Australian Federal Police arrested Mr Tervonen on 4 July 2006. Mr Tervonen has initiated a number of proceedings challenging the validity of various steps in the extradition process.

Three separate applications for special leave to appeal to the High Court were refused on 19 June 2009. Two applications for special leave sought to challenge the finding by the Full Federal Court on 6 March 2008 confirming the validity of a section 16 notice issued by the then Minister for Justice and Customs to give jurisdiction to a Magistrate to commence extradition proceedings. A further special leave application sought to challenge the decision of the Full Federal Court of 30 January 2009 upholding the findings of the Federal Court and a magistrate that Mr Tervonen was eligible for surrender to Finland.

The High Court’s decisions to refuse special leave are significant as they uphold previous decisions on the scope of extradition proceedings before a magistrate and the adequacy of avenues for judicial review of the various stages of Australia’s extradition process.

Dunn v Australian Crime Commission and Others [2009] FCAFC 16 (24 February 2009)

During 2009, the Commonwealth Attorney-General, the Australian Crime Commission and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions were joint respondents to two appeals before the Full Federal Court.

Both appeals (from April 2008 decisions of the Federal Court) concerned a mutual assistance request made to Switzerland on 16 March 2005. The request was made in support of an Australian Crime Commission investigation known as Operation Wickenby.

The two appeals were:

  • Strachans SA v Attorney-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, the Australian Crime Commission, and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, and
  • Dunn & Misty Mountain Pty Ltd v The Australian Crime Commission, Attorney-General of the Commonwealth of Australia and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.

Both appellants argued that the primary judge erred in concluding that the mutual assistance request had been lawfully made. They argued that subsequent correspondence to the Swiss authorities either formed part of the request or constituted new and separate requests, and were invalid. The Strachans appeal also argued that the request or subsequent correspondence were misleading, and therefore invalid.

On 24 February 2009, the Full Federal Court dismissed both appeals on all grounds, upheld the validity of the mutual assistance request, and awarded costs to the respondents.

Mr Dunn and Misty Mountain Pty Ltd have filed an application seeking special leave to appeal to the High Court from this judgment. The Attorney-General, the Australian Crime Commission and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions are joint respondents to this application. At this stage, Strachans has not filed a similar application.

This matter demonstrates significant and ongoing cooperation between the Attorney-General’s Department, the Australian Crime Commission and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

R v Benbrika & Ors

On 15–16 September 2008, in the Supreme Court of Victoria, Mr Benbrika and six other defendants were found guilty of a number of terrorist offences. On 3 February 2009 the sentences were handed down. Mr Benbrika was sentenced to a non-parole period of 12 years. The other six defendants were sentenced to non-parole periods of imprisonment ranging from 4.5 years to 7.5 years. All prisoners have filed applications for leave to appeal their sentences. No date has been fixed for hearing of those applications.

R v Cheiko & Ors

Nine men have been charged with conspiring to do acts in preparation for a terrorist act. The trial in the Supreme Court of New South Wales commenced in November 2008 and is ongoing.

On 27 May 2008, in a matter related to these prosecutions, the Supreme Court of New South Wales upheld the constitutional validity of section 18 of the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979. Section 18 of the TIA Act enables a carrier of communications to give conclusive evidence in writing of acts and things done to enable an interception to occur. The defendants appealed this judgement. However, on 13 August 2008 the New South Wales Court of Criminal Appeal refused to grant their leave to appeal.


On 10 September 2008, in the Supreme Court of New South Wales, Mr Khazaal was found guilty of making a document in connection with engaging a person in a terrorist act. Mr Khazaal has not yet been sentenced.

R v Seivers & O’Ryan

Former Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) officer, Mr Seivers, and former Australian Taxation Office employee, Mr O’Ryan, were convicted and sentenced for offences connected to unauthorised communication of intelligence. The convictions related to the leaking, in October 2004, of ASIO documents to the media. Mr Seivers was sentenced to six months periodic detention and a good behaviour order for a further six months. Mr O’Ryan was sentenced to three months periodic detention and a good behaviour order for a further nine months.

Reports by parliamentary committees

Joint Standing Committee on Treaties

In June 2008, the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties released Report 91: Treaties, tabled on 12 March 2008. The report dealt with two treaties between Australia and the United Arab Emirates, namely the treaty on extradition and the treaty on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters. It recommended binding treaty action be taken and made a number of other recommendations relating to future treaty negotiations, proposed monitoring and reporting requirements and arrangements for information exchange between Australia and other countries. The Government is currently giving these recommendations detailed consideration, and will provide a response to the Committee in due course.

On 13 May 2009, the Government tabled in Parliament the text of the Agreement between Australia and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam concerning transfer of sentenced persons. The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties’ inquiry into this treaty was continuing at 30 June 2009.

Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee

Report on Bills amending the Evidence Act 1995

In 2008–09, the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee reported on two Bills amending the Evidence Act 1995.

The Evidence Amendment Bill 2008 implemented most of the recommendations made by the Australian, New South Wales and Victorian law reform commissions in the report of their inquiry into the operation of uniform Evidence Acts. The amending provisions were developed through the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General as part of a process of creating greater national uniformity in evidence laws. The Committee recommended that the Senate pass the Bill. Liberal Senators made additional recommendations. The Bill commenced operation on 1 January 2009.

The Evidence Amendment (Journalists’ Privilege) Bill 2009 proposes to amend the professional confidential relationship privilege provisions of the Evidence Act to strengthen protections for journalists’ confidential sources in appropriate circumstances. The Committee recommended that the Act require the court to take into account relevant public interest factors in the exercise of its discretion to apply journalists’ privilege, consistent with proposed Standing Committee of Attorneys-General reforms to model uniform evidence laws. The report also contains a number of recommendations from Liberal and minor party Senators.

Report on the Foreign Evidence Amendment Bill 2008

In March 2009, the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs tabled a report on the Foreign Evidence Amendment Bill 2008. The Committee recommended that the Bill be passed subject to a number of amendments. The Government is considering the Committee’s recommendations before debating the Bill in the Senate.

Report on Law and Justice (Cross Border and other Amendments) Bill 2009

On 12 May 2009, the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee handed down its report on the Law and Justice (Cross Border and other Amendments) Bill 2009. The Bill contains a range of measures, including amendments to support effective operation of the Cross Border Justice Scheme. The Scheme, established under State and Territory legislation, will improve delivery of justice services in the cross-border region of South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory by enabling police, magistrates and other officials to operate across borders to deal with an offender from any one of the participating jurisdictions where the offender has a connection to the cross-border region. The Committee recommended the Bill be passed without amendment.

Inquiry into the effectiveness of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984

On 12 December 2008 the Committee tabled its report on the effectiveness of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 in eliminating discrimination and promoting gender equality. The report makes 43 recommendations. The Government is considering the Committee’s recommendations.

Inquiry into the Disability Discrimination and Other Human Rights Legislation Amendment Bill 2008

The Disability Discrimination and Other Human Rights Legislation Amendment Bill 2008 was referred to the Committee, which reported on 27 February 2009. The Committee recommended that the Bill be passed subject to one recommendation for amendment. The Committee made four other recommendations, three of which concern operation of the legislation and the fourth supporting provision of more accessible voting for people with disability. The Government is considering the Committee’s recommendations.

Inquiry into the Native Title Amendment Bill 2009

The Native Title Amendment Bill 2009 was introduced into the House of Representatives on 19 March 2009 and immediately referred to the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs for inquiry and report. The Committee considered the provisions of the Bill and the Committee’s sole recommendation was that the Bill be passed without amendment.

House Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs inquiry into the draft Disability (Access to Premises—Buildings) Standards 2009

The draft Standards, together with a Regulation Impact Statement and a range of associated documents, were referred to the Committee on 3 December 2008 for review. The Committee reported on 15 June 2009 with a number of recommendations for amendment of the standards before their finalisation, including inclusion of Class 2 buildings, or residential unit blocks. The Government is considering the Committee’s recommendations.

Senate Community Affairs Committee inquiry into Petrol Sniffing and Substance Abuse in Central Australia

The Committee tabled its report Grasping the opportunity of Opal: Assessing the impact of the Petrol Sniffing Strategy on 19 March 2009. The report makes 18 recommendations. The Department contributed to the Australian Government submission to the inquiry and gave evidence at Committee hearing. The Government is considering the Committee’s recommendations.

Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Crime Commission

In September 2008, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Crime Commission tabled its report on the Australian Crime Commission Amendment Act 2007. The report was a post-enactment inquiry into that Act. The report made 10 recommendations to improve the operation of the powers contained in Part II, Division 2 of the Australian Crime Commission Act 2002. The report’s recommendations also address issues relating to accountability, oversight and review of the Australian Crime Commission’s powers. The Government is considering its response to the report.

Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity

On 23 February 2009, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI) tabled its report, Inquiry into Law Enforcement Integrity Models. The report was a comparative analysis of the Commission to its state-based counterparts. The inquiry examined the various state-based law enforcement integrity agencies to inform possible changes to the Commission’s governance structure and operation process. The report made eight recommendations to improve resourcing levels, capabilities, external relationships and misconduct reporting arrangements in the agencies the Commission oversees. The Government is considering its response to the report.

Reports by the Commonwealth Ombudsman

In June 2008, the Commonwealth Ombudsman began investigating the Department’s recommendation to the former Minister for Home Affairs on an application for compensation under the Guidelines for Claims for Compensation for Detriment arising from Defective Administration. The investigation has not yet been completed.

Other reports

Office of the Privacy Commissioner’s privacy audits of aspects of the national Document Verification Service

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner conducted two privacy audits of aspects of the national Document Verification Service. One audit was carried out in an Australian Government agency and the second was of documentation of the Document Verification Service. The audits are part of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner’s commitment to support development and implementation of the Document Verification Service. Reports are expected later in 2009.

Australian Human Rights Commission’s Social Justice Report 2008 and Native Title Report 2008

The reports were tabled on 29 April 2009. The Social Justice Report focuses on human rights protections for Indigenous persons, remote Indigenous education, Indigenous healing and the progress on achieving Indigenous health equality by 2030. The Native Title Report reviews changes to native title law and policy and focuses on climate change and its potential impacts on Indigenous people’s human rights and other rights and interests. The Government will consult with the Commission on issues raised in the reports.

Office of Evaluations and Audit’s performance audit report on the Prevention, Diversion, Rehabilitation and Restorative Justice Program

In January 2008, the Office of Evaluations and Audit reported on a performance audit of the Prevention, Diversion, Rehabilitation and Restorative Justice Program. This program was one of a number absorbed into the Attorney-General’s Department in 2004 following abolition of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission. The Office of Evaluations and Audit report made nine recommendations, which the Department is taking steps to implement.

Northern Territory Emergency Response Review Board report

The NTER is a whole-of-government response aimed at closing the gap on Indigenous disadvantage in the Northern Territory. The NTER commenced in 2007 and comprises a number of measures in the areas of law and order, family support, health services, education and employment pathways. The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs is the lead agency for the response and is responsible for coordinating measures across government. The Attorney-General’s Department administers a number of initiatives under law and order, in particular the Night Patrol program.

In June 2008, the Government commissioned an independent review to assess the overall progress of the NTER to consider whether the existing suite of measures was effective in delivering the intended outcomes and recommend any required changes. The Review Board provided its report in October 2008. Shortly thereafter, the Government announced its interim response which accepted the Review Board’s three overarching recommendations that:

  • the Australian and Northern Territory governments recognise as a matter of national significance the continuing need to address the unacceptably high levels of disadvantage and social dislocation experienced by remote communities and town camps in the Northern Territory
  • Government reset its relationship with Indigenous people based on genuine consultation, engagement and partnership, and
  • Government actions respect Australian human rights obligations and conform with the Racial Discrimination Act 1975.

This was followed by a comprehensive response on 21 May 2009 incorporating the measures funded in the 2009–10 Federal Budget.

On 21 May 2009 the Government also released a discussion paper entitled Future Directions for the NTER. This paper will form the basis of intensive consultation with Indigenous Northern Territory communities on legislative changes to remove provisions in the NTER legislation that exclude the operation of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975. Consultations commenced in June and will conclude in September 2009.

Our people

Mercury News

Daniel Gleeson, Public Affairs Branch, Priorities and Coordination Division

Daniel Gleeson, Public Affairs Branch,
Priorities and Coordination Division.

a realistic simulation of intense media coverage during a terrorist attack

Mercury 08 was one of the largest national security exercises ever conducted in Australia. Australian security and intelligence agencies faced a nightmare scenario involving suicide bombings targeting luxury hotels in Queensland and the energy sector in Western Australia.

Daniel Gleeson of the Public Affairs Branch led development and implementation of a cutting-edge pseudo-media program that provided a realistic simulation of the intense media coverage that would occur during and after a terrorist attack.

‘The exercise presented an opportunity for Australian Government media officers to practice their crisis communications and issues management skills during a terrorist attack,’ Daniel said.

‘For this to happen, we needed a news website that covered the events as they unfolded to put media officers under pressure to respond quickly.’

Daniel worked with the Department’s web services team to design the Mercury News website, and the Department’s IT areas provided the hardware and support to transmit large media files to the Department from Western Australia and Queensland.

With the infrastructure in place, media officers flew to the sites of the ‘terrorist attacks’ to interview local authorities about what had happened and how they were responding. News and interview footage was edited in the field before being transmitted to the Mercury News newsroom for uploading.

‘The Attorney-General’s Department takes the lead in coordinating public information in the event of a terrorist attack,’ Daniel said.

Mercury News was another way of ensuring the Public Affairs Branch and our partners are as prepared as possible to perform this critical role.’

The Attorney-General acknowledged all those involved in Mercury 08, stating the ‘commitment and dedication’ of participants ‘has ensured Australia’s counter-terrorism arrangements were broadly and effectively tested. In doing so, they have helped make Australia more secure.’

Chapter 11 Financial management

Analysis of financial performance

The Department’s departmental operating result for 2008–09 was a deficit of $1.749 million compared to a deficit of $13.255 million for 2007–08. The deficit is less then 1 per cent of total revenues.

Total departmental income increased by $18.356 million or 7.7 per cent to $255.577 million, and total departmental expenses increased by $6.850 million or 2.7 per cent to $257.326 million. The increases primarily reflect additional funding from budget measures and the full year of operations for functions transferred to the Department under the Administrative Arrangements Order of 3 December 2007.

The Department’s net assets increased by $20.035 million or 13.5 per cent to $168.063 million primarily due to additional capital funding from budget measures. Administered expenses increased by $38.616 million or 4.8 per cent in 2008–09 compared to 2007–08 primarily due to the full year of operations for functions transferred to the Department under the Administrative Arrangements Order of 3 December 2007.

Figure 9: Departmental revenues and expenses, 2007–08 and 2008–09

Figure 9: Departmental revenues and expenses, 2007–08 and 2008–09  

Figure 10: Administered expenses, 2007–08 and 2008–09

Figure 10: Administered expenses, 2007–08 and 2008–09  

Contracts and Australian National Audit Office access clauses

During 2008–09, the Department had no contracts to report over the value of $100,000 that did not provide for the Auditor-General to have access to the contractor’s premises.

Exempt contracts

There were no contracts over the value of $10,000 exempted from being published in AusTender by the Secretary of the Department on the basis that to do so would disclose exempt matters under the Freedom of Information Act 1982.

Consultancy services

A consultant is defined as an entity—whether an individual, a partnership or a corporation—engaged to provide professional, independent and expert advice or services. The key characteristics of a consultancy are that the services involve the development of an intellectual output that assists with the Department’s decision making, and that the output reflects the independent views of the service provider.

During 2008–09, 69 new consultancy contracts were entered into, involving total actual expenditure of $3.305 million. In addition, 20 ongoing consultancy contracts were active during the year involving total actual expenditure of $448,227.

The main categories of purposes for which consultants were engaged were:

  • reviews of processes and mechanisms
  • independent assessments, analysis, advice, and application of high level expertise, and
  • research into, studies of, and modelling of activities.

Information on expenditure on contracts for consultancies is available in Appendix 4. Information on the value of contracts and consultancies is available on the AusTender website.

Advertising and market research

The Department is required to disclose expenditure made to specific types of organisations under section 311A of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918. The categories of organisations are advertising agencies, market research organisations, polling organisations, direct mail organisations and media advertising organisations.

Details of payments are provided at Appendix 5.

Legal services expenditure

Paragraph 11.1(a) of the Legal Services Directions 2005, issued by the Attorney-General under the Judiciary Act 1903, requires chief executives of departments and agencies to ensure that legal services expenditure is appropriately recorded and monitored. Chief executives must also ensure that their agencies make records of their legal services expenditure for the previous financial year publicly available by 30 October in the following financial year.

The expenditure on external legal services for 2008-09 was $8.640 million. A more detailed breakdown of both internal and external legal expenditure is at Appendix 6.


Grants are an arrangement for the Commonwealth to provide financial assistance:

  • where public money is to be paid to a recipient other than the Commonwealth
  • to help the recipient achieve its goals
  • to promote one or more of the Australian Government’s policy objectives, and
  • under which the recipient is required to act in accordance with any terms or conditions specified in the arrangement.

A grant activity can take a variety of forms, including a payment made on a one-off or ad hoc basis, payments made as a result of competitive assessment, or payments paid where specified criteria are satisfied.

In December 2008, the Minister for Finance and Deregulation announced a number of reforms in reporting of grant program expenditure. As part of these reforms, from 1 January 2009 agencies are required to publish details of individual grants on their websites. Information on grants awarded by the Attorney-General’s Department since 1 January 2009 is available at http://www.ag.gov.au/About/Grants/Pages/default.aspx.

Discretionary grants

Discretionary grants are payments where the portfolio minister or paying agency has discretion in determining whether a particular applicant receives funding. They may impose conditions on the making of the grant.

The Department has 12 programs or areas through which it provided discretionary grants during 2008–09, namely:

  • Family relationships services program
  • Grants to Australian organisations
  • Provision of legal aid for Indigenous Australians
  • Provision of law and justice advocacy services for Indigenous Australians
  • Provision of preventative, diversion, rehabilitation and restorative justice services for Indigenous Australians
  • Provision of family violence prevention legal services for Indigenous Australians
  • National emergency volunteers support fund
  • Local Grant Scheme
  • National community crime prevention program
  • Schools Security Program
  • Safer suburbs plan, and
  • services to Indian Ocean Territories.

A full list of individuals or organisations that received discretionary grants is available at http://www.ag.gov.au/About/Grants/Pages/default.aspx.


The Department’s approach to the procurement of all property and services is consistent with the requirements of the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines. The Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines are applied to procurement activities through the Chief Executive’s Instructions and the Financial Guidance and Procedure Manual.

A financial management learning and development program was established during 2007 and includes modules on procurement and contract management as well as the Chief Executive’s Instructions, authorisations and delegations.

A procurement advice unit within the Department provides advice to staff involved in procurement activities. In addition the unit undertakes quality assurance testing of procurement activities undertaken across the Department.

The procurement advice unit periodically reviews all procurement related documentation and training material to ensure consistency with the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines and other policies that interact with procurement. As part of the most recent review the Department’s Request for Tender and other procurement templates have been significantly improved. The Chief Executive Instructions are currently being reviewed.

Assets management

The composition of the Department’s fixed asset base has not changed during 2008–09. Currently the asset base covers a wide range of asset types including office fit-outs, purchased and internally developed software, computer equipment, infrastructure located in the territories and centrally held library materials.

The value of assets has increased by $38.8 million (from $56.8 million in 2007–08 to $95.6 million). The most significant item that accounted for this increase was the cost of the fit-out for our new offices at 3–5 National Circuit ($29.1 million). The remaining $9.7 million is due to additions of $6.7 million across all asset categories and also to a net revaluation increment of $3 million.

Most administered assets are associated with the Indian Ocean Territories. The Department also manages assets in Jervis Bay and the Norfolk Island Territories. These assets include water and waste water infrastructure, the Nolan Art Collection, and heritage assets. The value of these assets is $310.8 million (2007–08: $311.6 million).

The Department undertakes an annual stocktake of assets to maintain the accuracy of asset records.

The Department also has asset management guidance and procedures as part of the financial guidance and procedure manual, which has been promulgated to divisions and is available electronically on the Department’s intranet.

Chapter 12 Human resource management


In 2008–09, the Human Resources, Information and Governance Branch:

  • implemented the restructure, as recommended in the Beale review (see Chapter 9), to better align the Department’s workforce with the Government’s current and emerging priorities; the Branch established the Organisational Change taskforce to work with Divisions to refine and implement the new structure
  • reviewed the Program for Performance Improvement and consequently implemented Individual Work Plans to align individual performance with the Department’s strategic needs and improve the quality of workforce metrics relating to capability gaps and the People Development Strategy, and
  • implemented an Employee Induction Program that supports new starters and their supervisors by offering easy access to essential information, and online learning solutions in areas such as occupational health and safety, workplace diversity and cultural awareness.

Staff profile

Figure 11: Departmental staff numbers from 2005 to 2009, at 30 June 2009

Figure 11: Departmental staff numbers from 2005 to 2009, at 30 June 2009  

Table 24: Staffing trends, 2004–05 to 2008–09

2004–05 2005–06 2006–07 2007–08 2008–09
TOTAL STAFF 941 1,146 1,329 1,544 1,547
Ongoing 824 936 1,135 1,353 1,387
Non-ongoing 78 164 160 148 123
Irregular/intermittent/casual 39 46 34 43 37
Average age 38 37 36 38 38
Average length of service (years) n/a 4.2 3.7 3.7 4.1
Proportion female (%) 59.0 60.0 58.4 64.0 63.5
Proportion male (%) 41.0 40.0 41.6 36.0 36.5
Proportion part-time (%) 6.05 5.0 6.3 7.7 7.6
SES 63 69 80 78 94
EL1 and 2 equivalent 343 449 514 608 625
APS 1–6 equivalent 496 582 701 858 826
Total excluding casuals 902 1,100 1,295 1,501 1,510

Key: n/a = not available

Workforce planning

During 2008–09 the Department undertook a number of workforce planning activities including:

  • reviewing the Program for Performance Improvement and consequently implementing Individual Work Plans, to align individual performance with the Department’s strategic needs and improve the quality of workforce metrics relating to capability gaps and the People Development Strategy
  • ongoing refinement of workforce metrics provided to the Executive and to business areas, including more tailored reporting and analysis
  • continuing to enhance and refine the Department’s People Development Strategy, and
  • developing a mature-aged workers strategy.

Workforce planning activities will be derived from and complement the outcomes of new strategic and business planning processes. Workforce plans will be developed at a divisional level with support from the Human Resources, Information and Governance Branch to meet the various needs of line areas.


A key objective for the Department in 2008–09 was to better align workforce capability with strategic business needs and Government priorities by centralising and coordinating its recruitment activity. Greater use of bulk recruitment rounds, involving several divisions, resulted in reduced recruitment and advertising costs, improved candidate fields, and stronger merit pools.

The Department conducted 178 advertised recruitment processes, including six SES processes.

Staffing retention and turnover

During 2008–09, the Department experienced a 4.4 per cent decline in employee-initiated turnover with a rate of 15 per cent. This is based on the number of employee-initiated separations in 2008–09 (including resignation from the APS, movement to another APS agency, retirement and voluntary early cessation of a non-ongoing contract) divided by the number of staff at 30 June 2009.

However, the Department’s ongoing separation rate for 2008–09 was 6.9 per cent. This includes all ongoing separations, including terminations, redundancies, resignations and retirements, but does not include ongoing movements to other APS agencies. More than half of the Department’s ongoing separations in 2008–09 were as a result of staff moving to other parts of the APS. The Department supports the concept of the APS as a career service.

Workplace agreements

Collective agreements

The Attorney-General’s Department Agreement 2007 came into operation on 24 September 2007 and nominally expires on 24 July 2010. At 30 June 2009, 1,495 employees were covered by this agreement.

Key features of the agreement include:

  • a 4.5 per cent per annum base salary increase in each of the three years of the agreement
  • an increase in the rate of employer superannuation contribution for employees who exercise ‘superannuation choice’ to match the rate paid for membership of the Public Sector Superannuation Scheme Accumulation Plan
  • an increase from 12 weeks to 14 weeks paid maternity leave
  • introduction of 14 weeks paid adoption leave
  • an increase in supporting partner leave (in the event of birth or adoption) from five days to 10 days
  • enhancement of the purchased leave scheme, which currently allows up to four weeks, to enable the purchase of up to eight weeks leave per year
  • movement from the two-tiered system (which had some Executive Level employees working under the flextime system and others working less formal flexible working hours arrangements) to a common flexible working hours arrangement for Executive Level employees
  • the option to elect to take annual leave at half pay, and
  • reversion to a credit-based personal leave arrangement for ongoing employees from the previous sick and carer’s leave arrangements, which were not credit based.

Australian Workplace Agreements

All of the Department’s SES employees are covered by an Australian Workplace Agreement (AWA) or common law contracts. In line with the Government’s Employment Bargaining Framework, no new AWAs have been issued since February 2008. New SES employees are employed under a common law contract. At 30 June 2009, 59 SES employees and 40 non-SES employees were covered by AWAs.

Non-SES AWAs primarily cover specific casual employees and provide penalty rates for unusual hours of employment, and are used to provide additional employment conditions, such as overseas posting allowances, enhanced remuneration rates for specific work or skills, or variation to normal leave conditions.

Section 24(1) Determinations

The Department has made one section 24(1) Determination under the Public Service Act 1999 since February 2008. This Determination covers the conditions for casual employees working on the National Security Hotline who commenced work after 10 April 2008. The Determination mirrors the conditions that were formerly contained in AWAs.

It is intended that the conditions for casual National Security Hotline employees will be incorporated into the next Attorney-General’s Department collective agreement, due to be finalised in 2010 and the section 24(1) Determination will be revoked at that time.

Common law contracts

As at 30 June 2009, the Department had entered into 18 common law contracts with new SES employees. These contracts have the same content as the former SES AWAs except they contain a different dispute settlement procedure because the Australian Industrial Relations Commission does not have jurisdiction to deal with disputes arising under common law contracts.

As at 30 June 2009, the Department had entered into eight common law contracts with non-SES employees. These contracts operate in conjunction with the Attorney-General’s Department Collective Agreement 2007 and are used to provide additional employment conditions, such as overseas posting allowances, enhanced remuneration rates for specific work or skills, or variation to normal leave conditions.

Non-salary benefits to employees

The Department, through its industrial agreements with employees, permits employees to flexibly package their remuneration to combine both monetary and non-monetary benefits. The key non-salary benefits an employee can choose to salary sacrifice for include:

  • a motor vehicle acquired through novated lease arrangements
  • laptop or notebook computers used primarily for business purposes
  • additional superannuation, and
  • employer-based child care.

Salary rates

Table 25: Salary ranges under the Attorney-General’s Department Agreement, Australian Workplace Agreements, common law contracts and section 24(1) Determination, as at 30 June 2009

Classification Salary range
under the CA
Salary range under
AWAs and common
law contracts
Section 24(1)
(NSH casual operators)
SES Band 3 n/a 195,991–259,002 n/a
SES Band 2 n/a 159,557–175,352 n/a
SES Band 1 n/a 126,940–155,504 n/a
Executive Level 2 93,317–112,129 109,335–133,133 n/a
Principal Legal Officer 93,317–112,129 109,335–133,133 n/a
Executive Level 1 80,910–98,447 98,447–105,798 n/a
Senior Legal Officer 80,910–98,447 98,447–105,798 n/a
APS Level 6 63,418–74,488 72,850–74,488 n/a
APS Level 5 58,719–62,263 n/a n/a
APS Level 4 52,643–57,158 n/a 52,643–57,158
Legal Officer 47,234–74,488 n/a n/a
APS Level 3 47,234–50,978 n/a n/a
Graduate APS 46,885–48,055 n/a n/a
APS Level 1–2 37,377–46,906 37,377–46,906 n/a
Cadet APS (practical training) 36,644–40,497 n/a n/a
Cadet APS (full-time study) 19,991 n/a n/a

Note: CA = Certified Agreement; AWAs = Australian Workplace Agreements; NSH = National Security Hotline;
n/a = not applicable

Performance pay

Performance pay is not available to non-SES employees under the Attorney-General’s Department Agreement 2007. Access to performance pay is generally available to SES employees covered by an AWA or common law contract.

For SES employees with access to performance pay, the Secretary may determine that an employee is entitled to a performance bonus of up to 15 per cent of their salary. Performance pay, if awarded, is available after the final performance appraisal for the year under the Program for Performance Improvement. All decisions concerning performance pay are based on achievement against agreed performance criteria.

Detail of performance pay awarded during 2008–09 is shown in Table 26.

Table 26: Performance payments for performance in 2008–09

Classification level
Non-SES and
SES Band 1
Bands 2 and 3
Number of employees eligible 69 17
Number of employees receiving payment 64 17
Aggregated amount of payments $614,260 $323,196
Average bonus payment $9,598 $19,012
Range of payments $924–$22,436 $8,768–$26,303

Training and development

The Attorney-General’s Department continues to invest in developing its people’s skills and knowledge to strategically meet its objectives. The People Development Strategy provides a framework for learning and development opportunities across the range of the Department’s generic capabilities and the Australian Public Service Commission’s Integrated Leadership System.

In 2008–09, 209 People Development Strategy training courses were conducted (including the financial training courses) with approximately 2,300 participants.

This year, the People Development Strategy focused on:

  • Induction through:
    • implementing an induction system that supports new starters and their supervisors by offering easy access to essential information, and online learning solutions in areas such as occupational health and safety, workplace diversity and cultural awareness.
  • Management and leadership at the APS 5 to SES levels through:
    • implementing programs that target the Department’s emerging leaders
    • improving SES management and leadership through the Senior Executive Leadership Forum—a development program tailored to the SES, and
    • sponsoring places in the Career Development Assessment Centre and the Australia and New Zealand School of Government.
  • Writing skills by:
    • delivering writing skills programs that focus on ministerial writing, grammar and clear writing and are tailored to the Department’s writing style.
  • Policy development by:
    • delivering policy programs targeted to the Department’s needs.
  • People management by:
    • developing and delivering programs that focus on giving and receiving feedback, performance management and managing up.

A range of financial management learning and development courses have also been developed and delivered. These courses have raised awareness generally to ensure greater accountability, reliable decision-making, consistency in processes, and compliance with external and internal financial requirements. This year, additional courses were offered that focused on procurement procedures, contract management and spending public money.

Information technology training

Training in information technology helps the Department’s staff make the best use of technology. The Department’s Information Technology Training Centre supported 2,465 attendances in 2008–09. Training was provided on a range of information technology systems, including Microsoft Office applications, information technology security awareness, introduction to the Department’s information technology systems for new starters, the electronic document and records management system (TRIM), and writing for the web.

A training strategy to support the Department’s planned upgrade to a new Standard Operating Environment in the second half of 2009 has been developed. Delivery of training in Windows Vista and Office 2007 for the Standard Operating Environment upgrade pilot project was conducted in May 2009.

Staff recognition

The reward and recognition program is an important component of the Department’s approach to recognising and celebrating employees’ outstanding efforts and contributions and for promoting departmental values and behaviours.

The annual Secretary’s Award recognises individuals and teams that have demonstrated excellence in achieving outcomes beyond general expectations. The deputy secretaries and general managers present other awards for excellence.

Other awards presented include Australia Day Awards and the Academic Achievement Awards. A full list of award recipients is in Appendix 8.

Work–life balance

The Attorney-General’s Department Agreement 2007 and, where applicable, employees’ Australian Workplace Agreements and common law contracts, provide for flexible working arrangements to help employees balance their work and other responsibilities.

The Department’s employment conditions policies detail the following flexible working arrangements that staff can access:

  • part-time work (including guaranteed access to part-time work for three years following the date of birth or adoption of a child)
  • job sharing
  • home-based work
  • flextime and other flexible working hour arrangements, and
  • flexible leave arrangements, including 14 weeks paid maternity and adoption leave, two weeks paid parental leave (for non-primary carers of a newborn or adopted child), and the option of purchasing additional leave or taking leave at half pay.

Additional policies and initiatives that support flexible working arrangements include:

  • health and wellbeing program
  • carer’s room guidelines
  • guidelines for exchange of legal staff between the Department and the Australian Government Solicitor
  • study assistance, and
  • return to work from injury or illness.

Workplace diversity

The Department launched its Workplace Diversity Program in early 2008–09. The program strengthens existing strategies and actions detailed in the Department’s Reconciliation Action Plan.

The Department has actioned a number of items outlined in the Workplace Diversity Program, including:

  • revision of recruitment guidelines to ensure employment opportunities are advertised in a broad range of media, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander media
  • support of the Harassment Contact Officer network through provision of refresher training and the addition of new officers
  • introduction of face-to-face cultural awareness training available for all staff and required for those working with Indigenous communities, and
  • implementation of a new online training module, ‘Work effectively with diversity’, which has been incorporated into the Departmental Induction Program.

Commonwealth Disability Strategy

The Department is committed to enabling people with disability to participate fully as valued and equal citizens in the community.

In 1994, the Commonwealth Disability Strategy was introduced to provide a planning framework to help Australian Government agencies meet their obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.

Under the strategy, agencies are obliged to remove barriers that prevent people with disabilities from having access to these policies, programs and services. This means ensuring that people with disabilities have the same access to buildings, services, information, employment, education, sport and recreational activities as everyone else in the community. The reporting framework for the strategy incorporates five key roles that government may play in implementing the strategy: policy adviser, regulator, purchaser, provider and employer. Of these roles the Department reports on its role as a policy adviser in Appendix 10 and its obligations under the employer role are reported through the Australian Public Service Commission’s State of the Service report.

Throughout 2008–09, the Department continued to meet its responsibilities under the Commonwealth Disability Strategy by making reasonable adjustments needed by staff who have identified themselves as having a disability.

In 2008–09, no formal grievances relating to the Department’s obligations under the Commonwealth Disability Strategy were lodged. The Department provides mechanisms, such as the Harassment Contact Officer network, to receive feedback and grievances from existing employees and external parties.

Occupational health and safety

As a result of improved injury prevention and management strategies implemented since 2004–05, the Department’s workers’ compensation premium for 2009–10 is 0.36 per cent of payroll, a reduction from 0.45 per cent of payroll for 2008–09. This performance compares extremely favourably with the Department’s starting point of 1.79 per cent of payroll in 2004–05 and the average premium rate for all Australian Government agencies in 2009–10 of 1.25 per cent of payroll (see Table 27).

Table 27: Six-year premium rate comparison, 2004–05 to 2009–10

Premium rates 2004–05
Attorney-General’s Department 1.79 1.31 1.45 0.75 0.45 0.36
All agencies 1.67 1.77 1.77 1.77 1.36 1.25


In addition, the Department received a reduction of $78,468 in the premium for 2008–09 because of its improved performance in injury management, incident reporting, risk management and safety training.

Amendments made to the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1991 in March 2007 require employers to develop, in consultation with employees, written health and safety management arrangements. These arrangements provide a framework for managing health and safety within the workplace.

During 2008–09 the Department developed, implemented and revised 11 Employee Relations Advices relating to the Department’s Workplace Inspection Program, Occupational Health and Safety Incident Reporting, Return to Work after Injury or Illness, Eyesight Testing Guidelines, First Aid, Fitness for Continued Duty, Health and Wellbeing program, Manual Handling, Occupational Health and Safety Risk Assessment, Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, and Smoke Free Work Environment.

The Department continued regular workplace safety inspections. Division Heads were supplied reports recommending improvements to health and safety practices and the Department witnessed continued improvements, as divisions displayed ongoing commitment to eliminating occupational health and safety hazards.

The number of workers’ compensation claims continued to decline during 2008–09. Comcare accepted two claims in 2008–09, compared to five in 2007–08 and 16 in 2005–06. The decline in the number of workers’ compensation claims in the past three years is primarily attributable to prevention programs, such as ergonomic workstation assessments, and early intervention strategies for injuries within the workplace. Many employees were relocated in 2008–09 because of the move in headquarters to 3–5 National Circuit and ‘walkthrough’ assessments were conducted on every relocated employee’s workstation. Employees with non-compensable illnesses and injuries also benefited from early intervention practices.

Injury prevention and management activities carried out involved improvements to injury prevention, incident reporting, risk management and safety training procedures. During 2008–09, 649 employees’ workstations were formally assessed from an occupational health and safety perspective, three health and safety representatives were appointed, and 550 employees received influenza vaccinations.

The Attorney-General’s Department is presently in the process of filling Heath and Safety Representative vacancies arising from a new Designated Work Group structure resulting from significant changes in the Department’s building occupancy that occurred during 2008–09.

Information on the Department’s occupational health and safety performance, as required under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1991, is at Appendix 9.

Our people

Relocating the Attorney-General’s Department

Nan Lecomte, Brian Day, Cathy Bailey and Megan Corbett, Property and Support Services, People, Information and Technology Division

     Nan Lecomte, Brian Day, Cathy 
     Bailey and Megan Corbett, Property 
     and Support Services, People, 
     Information and Technology Division.

it’s rewarding to give staff ownership of the building

After eight years of planning and designing, construction and fit out, the Department’s staff were relocated to its newest building at 3–5 National Circuit, Barton, in April 2009.

Despite the short distance to the new building—just across the road for most staff—the scope of project managing relocation of approximately 1,000 staff and materials as significant.

While the Department coordinated project management for all aspects of the new building fit-out, with assistance from an external project management consultant, Turner Townsend, it contracted relocation management specialists, Relocation Laws, to manage physical relocation of staff and equipment.

‘We worked closely with Relocation Laws, we brought them in early to identify the needs of the Department’s divisions,’ said Nan Lecomte, Director of the project team.

‘Early consultation was key to the smooth move for all parties concerned.

‘Highlights of this project, a moving feast, included seeing the numerous elements of the project come together, and giving staff ownership of the new building. It’s very much been a team effort.’

The building was carefully designed to accommodate changes in business operations and technology. The modern design promotes workplace collaboration and staff interaction.

Security, space and environmental sustainability are key elements of the building’s design. It includes a cafe, shower and change rooms, bicycle parking, conference facilities, and 400 parking spaces in the basement. A childcare facility is expected to open later in 2009.

Boasting an Australian building greenhouse rating of 4.5, the green lease negotiated for the building was a world first for a commercial building and has set a precedent for other green leases around the world.

‘It’s been rewarding to lead the project team from inception, watching demolition of the old Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet building through to completion of the construction project, and to finally see staff working effectively and efficiently in the new building,’ Nan added.

Chapter 13 Social equity

Social justice

In pursuing its mission of achieving a just and secure society, the Department is working on an extensive social justice agenda. This agenda is founded on the principles of access and equity and the rights of all citizens to live in a just and secure society. It accords with the Charter of public service in a culturally diverse society.

A key responsibility of the Department is developing and maintaining a federal system of justice that serves individuals, families, business and the community. The Department is undertaking numerous initiatives to progress particular social justice objectives, which are documented in the performance reports section of this report. Many of the programs and activities the Department undertakes support the objective of promoting social justice.

Access to justice

Access to justice is a key priority for Government. The Department established an Access to Justice Taskforce to develop a strategic framework for the federal civil justice system. This framework is intended to guide policy making to better direct activities within the broader justice system to overcoming existing barriers to justice. Improving access to justice is a key means of promoting social inclusion. Many of the issues commonly faced by people, such as family breakdown, credit, housing and discrimination have a legal dimension. If left unresolved these issues can lead to multiple and entrenched disadvantage and result in social exclusion.

Legal assistance programs

The Department administers five legal assistance programs to provide disadvantaged Australians with access to the full range of legal services: community legal education, information, advice, advocacy and minor assistance, family dispute resolution, duty lawyer services in the courts and legal representation. These legal assistance programs include:

  • The Legal Aid Program, which funds legal aid commissions in each State and Territory to provide comprehensive legal aid services to help resolve problems and disputes in relation to matters arising under Commonwealth laws.
  • The Legal Aid for Indigenous Australians Program, which funds eight Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (ATSILS) to provide legal aid services for Indigenous Australians (see also Indigenous Specific Programs and Services).
  • The Family Violence Prevention Legal Services (FVPLS) program, which funds culturally sensitive family violence prevention legal services for Indigenous Australians (see also Indigenous Specific Programs and Services).
  • The Commonwealth Community Legal Services Program, which funds 128 community-based, independent, and non-profit organisations (community legal centres) to provide a range of assistance to people on low incomes and those with special needs. Community legal centres provide assistance on legal and related matters, such as domestic violence, financial assistance, and housing and accommodation. The program provides funding for generalist as well as specialist community legal services. Specialist services include those that provide assistance for women (including Indigenous and rural women), youth and children, and services in areas covered by environment law, the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and welfare rights.
  • Financial Assistance Schemes, through which the Australian Government funds direct financial assistance to individuals and organisations for legal costs and related expenses where legal aid is not available from legal aid commissions or pro bono practitioners, and where the circumstances give rise to a special Commonwealth Interest. Grants of financial assistance are provided in a broad range of matters across all States and Territories and in relation to overseas legal costs in special circumstances, including to Australians facing serious charges overseas and to Australian parents seeking the return of abducted children to Australia.

National Pro Bono Resource Centre

The Department administers funding for the National Pro Bono Resource Centre. The Centre is an independent, non-profit organisation that promotes pro bono legal services to the legal profession, community organisations and the general public. It provides support to lawyers and law firms to help them provide high quality pro bono legal services, and works with the profession and the community sector to match services with the clients and groups most in need of assistance. This includes working closely with community legal centres to broker and encourage pro bono partnerships with private law firms.

Indigenous Law Centre

The Indigenous Law Centre within the University of New South Wales is funded to publish the Indigenous Law Bulletin and the Australian Indigenous Law Review. These publications provide the public with access to current, relevant and useful information on the legal rights of Indigenous Australians.

Regional Innovations Program for Legal Services

Legal aid commissions in New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania are funded under the four-year Regional Innovations Program for Legal Services (RIPLS) to implement initiatives aimed at improving the availability of legal services in regional, rural and remote Australia. Initiatives include regional solicitor placement programs and improving access to professional development and networking opportunities.

Family law

Services under the Family Relationship Services Program, including Family Relationship Centres, are required to provide accessible services to all families who need them. Family Relationship Centres with significant Indigenous communities in their area receive additional funding to employ Indigenous advisers.

The Family Relationship Advice Line provides an alternative access to services. The Advice Line provides information, advice, and telephone dispute resolution. It is particularly useful for people in rural and remote locations, in Indigenous communities (particularly through its Indigenous staff), and people overseas or in correctional institutions. It is also useful for people who have difficulty accessing face-to-face services, such as those who need to use the National Relay Service or interpreter services.

On 1 March 2009, the Family Law Amendment (De Facto Financial Matters and Other Measures) Act 2008 commenced full operation to allow separating opposite-sex and same-sex de facto couples to access the federal family law courts on property settlement and maintenance matters. Previously, de facto couples could access the federal family law courts for child-related proceedings but were required to go to State and Territory courts for property and maintenance matters. This duplication placed unnecessary financial and administrative burden on de facto couples, as well as resulting in different rights for de facto couples in different States and Territories.

The Department’s legal assistance programs fund services that support the family law system. Around 84 per cent of legal aid grants expenditure was provided for Commonwealth family law litigation and dispute resolution during the year. A national evaluation of family dispute resolution services in legal aid commissions released by the Attorney-General on 2 April 2009 found the services to be particularly effective in providing low cost and less adversarial dispute resolution.

Legal aid commissions are also funded to provide an extensive duty lawyer service in the Family and Federal Magistrates Courts and the Family Court of Western Australia. Around 60 per cent of all duty lawyer services were provided for family law matters during the year. Two community legal centres also receive funding to provide duty lawyer services at the Dandenong Registry of the Family Court of Australia and the Melbourne Registry. These services work with Victorian legal aid commission duty lawyer services and generally act for the other party in cases where litigants are unrepresented to ensure that both parties to a family law action have appropriate access to legal assistance.

Funding is also provided to the Victorian Court Information and Welfare Network to operate a non-legal support service in the Family Court registries in Melbourne and Dandenong and to pilot a support service in the Brisbane Family Court registries. The two networks in Melbourne and Brisbane have a total of approximately 300 volunteers who offer assistance to people attending court by providing information on court procedures and processes, moral support, and referral services.

Rights for people with disability

The Department, together with other Australian Government agencies and the Australian Human Rights Commission, has worked on a range of projects to enhance the rights of people with disability, provide greater access to services and facilities, and aid access to employment and educational opportunities. These projects will have a significant positive impact on the rights of people with a disability to access essential community services and infrastructure. Projects include:

  • Ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 17 July 2008. The Convention aims to remove barriers faced by people with disability and reinforces their civil, political, social and economic rights.
  • Development of draft Disability (Access to Premises—Buildings) Standards. Once finalised the Standards will provide greater certainty to the building and property industries on the level of access they are required to provide for people with disability.
  • Review of the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport. These Standards, which have been in operation since 2002, set out minimum accessibility requirements that public transport operators must meet in accordance with a staged compliance table.
  • Amendments to the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 to improve its effectiveness. The proposed amendments would implement recommendations made by the Productivity Commission and deal with a range of matters to clarify the Act’s operation, including proposed amendments to the meaning of ‘direct discrimination’ and ‘indirect discrimination’ and more detailed provisions concerned with use and recognition of ‘assistance animals’.

Under the Commonwealth Community Legal Services Program, nine community legal centres are funded to specifically assist clients under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. These organisations provide appropriate legal services to address the needs of people experiencing discrimination because of a disability or a perceived disability, or because a family member or friend has a disability.

Indigenous specific programs and services

The Department plays a lead role in resolving native title claims and is actively involved in supporting the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER). The Department’s Indigenous law and justice programs provide strategic policy advice on Indigenous law and justice matters and services that focus on law and justice advocacy, and prevention, diversion, rehabilitation and restorative justice to prevent adverse contact by Indigenous Australians with the criminal justice system. Legal assistance programs funded by the Department help ensure disadvantaged Australians have access to legal services to help them resolve legal problems and disputes.

Native title

The Department ensures that its approach to native title is consistent with, and contributes in meaningful and practical ways, to the Australian Government’s broader Social Inclusion agenda and the National Indigenous Reform Agenda, agreed by COAG. Throughout 2008–09, the Native Title Unit has been particularly focused on achieving practical outcomes that contribute to the Indigenous Economic Participation and Leadership and Governance Building Blocks, which underpin COAG’s Closing the Gap reform agenda. Resolution of native title issues enhances spiritual wellbeing and cultural identity, provides recognition of people’s ongoing connection to land and facilitates reconciliation with the wider community. In addition, native title provides the opportunity to create sustainable, long-term outcomes for Indigenous Australians, including economic development opportunities.

Northern Territory Emergency Response—law and justice measures

The Department’s law and justice programs and legal assistance programs in the Northern Territory receive funding to support law and order measures relating to the NTER. This includes funding night patrol services in NTER identified communities.

The Department is working closely with the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs to implement the Government’s commitment to redesign the NTER measures to ensure they conform with the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 and respect Australia’s international human rights obligations.

ATSILS provided additional family and criminal law assistance to Indigenous Australians, particularly in Northern Territory law matters covering child welfare and victims’ compensation matters and represented defendants facing criminal charges under the NTER initiatives. In addition, ATSILS in the Northern Territory provided early dispute resolution services to divert Indigenous people away from the legal system by providing information and advice on their social security rights in relation to NTER measures.

The Northern Territory Legal Aid Commission is funded to provide the Welfare Rights Outreach Project. The project provides outreach clinics, community education and advocacy services to meet additional demand arising from some specific NTER measures, including income management, tenancy advice and consumer issues.

Northern Territory Aboriginal Interpreter Service

Under a bilateral agreement with the Northern Territory Government, operating from 2006–07 to 2009–10, the Australian Government is providing $4.576 million to the Northern Territory Aboriginal Interpreter Service. This service is helping alleviate language barriers Indigenous people in the Northern Territory face, particularly in relation to health and legal matters.

Prevention, diversion, rehabilitation and restorative justice services

Prevention, Diversion, Rehabilitation, and Restorative Justice Services are funded for Indigenous Australians across four key areas: youth, prisoner support and rehabilitation, restorative justice, and night patrols. In 2008–09, 90 projects were funded.

Youth projects seek to reduce recidivism by focusing on current and future youth issues that are culturally appropriate for young people at risk. Prisoner support and rehabilitation projects seek to facilitate rehabilitation of prisoners and incarcerated juveniles, and their return and reintegration into the community.

Restorative justice projects promote involvement of families, communities, victims and offenders in developing criminal justice mechanisms for dispute resolution. The focus is on culturally appropriate alternatives to conventional sentencing procedures that recognise and strengthen community-driven justice responses, and projects that explore areas of restorative justice, such as resolving pay back issues.

Night patrols help Indigenous Australians at risk, including intoxicated people, juveniles, victims of violence and the homeless. The purpose is to support community safety by patrolling the streets, and/or local community areas, and to provide transport to a place of safety or where immediate needs may be addressed. In addition to 72 night patrols operating in NTER identified communities, eight night patrols operate in communities and town camps in Katherine, Tennant Creek and Alice Springs.

Funding under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002

On 7 February 2009, the Government announced a new $6 million funding round under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. The round was open to eligible non-government organisations and local councils to apply for projects addressing either Indigenous prisoner throughcare programs (including rehabilitation, treatment and reintegration) or crime prevention programs. Applicants could apply for up to $500,000 per project for projects up to three years in duration. Applications for this round closed on 20 March 2009 and are being assessed.

Petrol Sniffing Strategy

The Department continues to be involved in the Australian Government’s Petrol Sniffing Strategy to address the negative affects of substance abuse and petrol sniffing in Indigenous communities.

This is a comprehensive approach that includes education, justice, community support, and health initiatives. The Department’s role in the Strategy is to support alternative activities for youth and strengthen communities. The designated regions are the Central Australia region (Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia), the East Kimberley region of Western Australia and the Mornington Island region of Queensland.

The Department funds a restorative justice initiative in Mornington Island and is seeking to develop a further initiative in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands in South Australia.

The Department also participates in the East Kimberley Substance Abuse (Petrol Sniffing) Strategy Implementation Plan. This whole-of-government strategy is managed by the Kimberley Inter-agency Working Group comprising representatives from Australian, State and local governments, and service providers. The Department has funded youth workers across a range of East Kimberley communities to provide diversionary activities to youth at risk of substance abuse, including petrol sniffing.

Family Violence Prevention Legal Services

Family Violence Prevention Legal Services (FVPLS) units provide legal assistance, casework, counselling, and court support services to Indigenous Australians who are victims and/or survivors of family violence and/or sexual assault. Units also provide an information support and referral service. Expansion of the FVPLS to 31 units was completed in 2008–09 with the opening of the Tennant Creek Unit in the Northern Territory in May 2009. The new unit will help ensure greater access to justice for Indigenous Australians living in rural and remote communities.

Community legal education and ongoing FVPLS work has led to greater community awareness of the purpose of FVPLS units and increased use of FVPLS services.

Indigenous women’s projects

Community legal centres operate a national network of eight Indigenous women’s projects. The projects are funded under the Commonwealth Community Legal Services Program to provide specific assistance to women with legal problems in both rural and urban areas.

Legal Aid for Indigenous Australians Program

Under the Legal Aid for Indigenous Australians Program the Department funds ATSILS to deliver culturally sensitive legal aid services to Indigenous Australians. The program aims to improve Indigenous people’s access to high quality and culturally sensitive legal aid services so they can fully exercise their legal rights as Australian citizens. Services are delivered at 85 Indigenous legal aid service delivery sites in metropolitan, regional and remote areas across nine States (or zones).

The service also employs officers to undertake law reform that addresses a range of Indigenous justice issues, particularly the adverse impact of the criminal justice system on Indigenous Australians, and monitors and reports on the State and Territory implementation of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody recommendations.

ATSILS delivered a range of community legal education activities in 2008–09 that advance and protect the rights of Indigenous people under Australian law. These initiatives included newsletters, posters, advice brochures and outreach visits to remote communities.

Indigenous test case funding

The Department may fund test cases that satisfy relevant eligibility criteria and also meet the following guidelines:

  • promote review of laws and administrative practices that have the effect of discriminating against Indigenous Australians
  • promote recognition of Indigenous Australians’ social, cultural, economic, legal and political rights through the conduct of litigation, and
  • promote resolution of inconsistencies and ambiguities in the application of existing laws to Indigenous Australians, or to an identifiable group of Indigenous Australians, through the conduct of litigation.

In 2008–09, the Department provided funding in the Aurukun and Kowanyama Aboriginal Shire Council High Court appeal to test the validity of section 106(4) of the Liquor and Other Acts Amendment Act 2008 (Qld) under section 9(2) and section 10 of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cwth).

Custody Notification Line

The Custody Notification Line is a 24-hour a day, seven day a week telephone custody notification service. If an Indigenous person is arrested in New South Wales or the Australian Capital Territory, he or she can ask the police to telephone the Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) Ltd to speak with a lawyer, to inform them of their arrest and to receive legal advice. The lawyer on duty will speak with the police officer, and then the person in custody to provide legal advice; they will also check their physical and mental health to determine whether there is any risk of self-harm. If the lawyer believes self-harm is a possibility he or she is able to make the appropriate arrangements to provide any support needed.

Remote Indigenous Communities Advisory Committee

The Australian Emergency Management Committee’s Remote Indigenous Communities Advisory Committee has continued to oversee implementation of the National Strategy for Emergency Management in Remote Communities—Keeping our Mob Safe. Emergency Management Australia undertook a project with the remote Western Australian Indigenous community of Kiwirrkurra to look at lessons learned from the 2001 evacuation of the community due to flooding.

State-type services to the Indian Ocean Territories

The Australian Government provides State-type services to the Indian Ocean Territories—Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands—consistent with those of comparable communities in Western Australia. This administered program ensures these remote and isolated communities are afforded the same benefits as their mainland counterparts.

Supporting the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community

The Department provides funding to the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council in the Jervis Bay Territory to support the council’s delivery of services to that Indigenous community. Through the ACT Government, the Department has supported establishment of a Family Support Worker in the Territory to help Indigenous families in crisis and provide referrals to appropriate Australian Capital Territory services. The Department regularly engages with the Wreck Bay community, through a community focus group and community consultative committees, to consider the Territory’s emergency management, justice, public health, and the Board of Management for the Booderee National Park.

Other social justice issues

Other social justice issues with which the Department was involved during 2008–09 were the restructure of the federal courts system, the National Forum on Emergency Warnings to the Community, and inclusive emergency management for culturally and linguistically diverse people.

Restructure of federal courts system

Restructure of the federal courts system (see page 38) will have benefits for all Australians requiring the support of federal courts. In particular it will provide benefits to families in conflict and their children, through enhanced early deployment of resources, including family consultant resources, to assist people resolve family disputes in a non-adversarial manner. The restructure will facilitate a smoother interface with other family law services including parenting programs, parenting orders programs and counseling services. The restructure will result in two federal courts, one dealing with family law disputes and one dealing with disputes under other federal laws. This will reduce confusion over the appropriate court in which to file, help parties resolve their differences in a more efficient and cost effective manner, and streamline administration in the interests of litigants.

National Forum on Emergency Warnings to the Community

The National Forum on Emergency Warnings to the Community was established in 2006, to bring key stakeholders together to build partnerships, share information and consider new technologies and best practice approaches to disseminating emergency warnings to the community.

The forum aims to:

  • identify, link and share strategies for public engagement and education as they relate to community warning systems
  • promote and influence the development of emergency warning systems that are accessible to people with a disability and people with cultural, linguistic or geographic diversity, and
  • identify issues impeding delivery of emergency warnings to target audiences.

The forum provides a unique platform for the three tiers of government, national peak bodies, advocacy groups and non-government organisations representing vulnerable communities, regulatory bodies and the industry to share information and initiate discussion on the future direction of emergency warnings in Australia.

In promoting the Australian Government’s policy on social inclusion, the forum has been raising awareness of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and the Commonwealth Disability Strategy.

Participants at the February 2009 meeting supported establishment of a working group to develop national best practice guidelines to inform emergency managers of communication needs of people with a disability or in other circumstances where receipt of emergency warning messages may be compromised. The proposed guidelines would aim to meet the requirements set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

The forum continues to bring together a broad cross section of representatives from the Australian community, across numerous sectors to facilitate development of a robust and considered national approach to disseminating emergency warnings aimed at meeting the needs of the entire community.

Inclusive emergency management for culturally and linguistically diverse communities

During 2008–09, the Department continued to implement its four-year program on inclusive emergency management, as a component of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s National Action Plan to Build on Social Cohesion, Harmony and Security. The Department remains focused on enhancing the abilities of culturally and linguistically diverse communities to prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters and/or emergencies in Australia.

Eight jurisdictional working groups, comprising representatives from the culturally and linguistically diverse community and emergency management sectors, have developed community project plans and are implementing them. These projects aim to enhance the resilience of communities to the effects of disasters by increasing the engagement between the two sectors. These projects were showcased at the annual workshop held in conjunction with the National Reference Group meeting.

The Department has developed a series of web-based digital stories that present the experiences and reflections of young people from different communities who have experienced disasters. These young people talk about the impact of those events on themselves, their families, schools and communities. This resource is for teachers and students in Years 8 to 10 and comprises a teacher guide, lesson plans and comprehensive curriculum links. It is designed to enhance students’ understanding of emergency management and their role in building cohesive and resilient communities.

Strategies to increase recruitment and retention of emergency management volunteers from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds have continued to be supported. The Department commissioned a project in Tasmania modelling one strategy of recruitment of culturally and linguistically diverse volunteers. The process and lessons learnt will form a case study and will be disseminated widely. Case studies have also been developed for promotion of successful engagement initiatives between the two sectors.

Our people

International transfer of prisoners

Bridget Quayle, Mutual Assistance and Extradition Branch, International Crime Cooperation Division

Bridget Quayle, Mutual Assistance and
Extradition Branch, International
Crime Cooperation Division.

transferring prisoners to their home country aids their rehabilitation into the community

The Department is Australia’s central authority administering the International Transfer of Prisoners Scheme. The scheme allows Australians imprisoned overseas, and foreign nationals imprisoned in Australia, to apply to serve the remainder of their sentence in their home country.

Bridget Quayle, a Senior Legal Officer in the International Transfer of Prisoners Unit, has worked as a case officer in various areas since joining the Department in 2006.

‘Transferring prisoners to their home country aids their rehabilitation into the community through family networks and removing any cultural or language barriers they face in the foreign country,’ Bridget said.

The scheme involves extensive and close collaboration with other Australian Government agencies to obtain approval for the transfer, as well as liaison with state departments of corrective services and relevant state ministers and governments of foreign countries to obtain consent and make logistical arrangements.

‘In May 2009, after wide consultations, several Australian citizen prisoners were successfully repatriated to Australia to serve the remainder of their prison sentences.’

Working as the case officer is not without its challenges, as Bridget explained: ‘Unexpected delays in the process, media interest in cases, pressure from family and friends of the prisoner, and ensuring all government parties are informed of the logistics of the transfer, are all challenging aspects of the job which make it interesting.

‘What appeals and challenges me in the job is trying to maintain a consistent and fair approach to sentence enforcement terms, to avoid a more lenient or harsher sentence than that imposed by the sentencing country,’ Bridget concluded.

Chapter 14 Ecologically sustainable development

The Department is required to report on a number of matters under section 516A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. These matters relate to the manner in which the Department’s activities accord with, and its outcomes contribute to, the principles of ecologically sustainable development as well as the effect of the Department’s activities on the environment.

The Department’s activities are consistent with the first of the ecologically sustainable development principles that ‘decision making processes should effectively integrate both long-term and short-term economic, environmental, social and equitable considerations’. Its activities have less direct relevance to the remaining principles.[3]

The Department has implemented a number of strategies to address environmental management issues, including:

  • educating staff in ways to reduce energy consumption
  • recycling paper and toner cartridges
  • device consolidation, that is, using multifunction devices that can print, scan and fax
  • turning equipment off after hours
  • downrating fluorescent tubes
  • buying energy efficient equipment, and
  • providing recycling bins at kitchen points.

The Department’s electronic document management system minimises the need to print and retain paper copies of most documents. This reduces the use of paper, toner and other consumables. Areas with significant numbers of paper-based records are examining possible scanning solutions.

The Department has made significant changes to its technology framework in recent years and improvements are being made that will result in a more reliable, more easily managed, higher performing and greener information technology environment.

The Department uses LCD computer monitors that use less power and create a lower heat load, providing savings in air-conditioning costs. The virtualisation of server hardware has allowed the Department to successfully undertake a server consolidation program thereby reducing the number of servers it needs and reducing energy consumption.

The Department has introduced a FollowME Print facility that reduces the amount of paper and toner being used by storing documents for a limited time until the user presents their access card to the printer for the document to print.

The Department developed an environmental management system that identifies ways to improve the environmental performance of buildings the Department occupies. The system is currently being reviewed to include the Department’s newest buildings. Despite the age of some of the other buildings the Department currently leases and the difficulty of improving their environmental performance, the Department continues to pilot a number of initiatives and encourages building owners to improve energy performance.

Any new leases the Department enters into are subject to the Government’s energy policy. The Department occupied a 4,600 square metre purpose-built building in Symonston in 2008 that was designed to a 4.5 star energy rating for the base building and fit-out. A new 20,000 square metre building at 3–5 National Circuit, Barton was completed in April 2009. The Department and the building owner were committed to achieving an environmentally efficient building. This goal was achieved, in part, by extensive use of glass to take advantage of natural lighting, using a smart lighting system that is activated when areas are occupied, using recycled and eco friendly materials for the building and fitout, as well as recycling of over 90 per cent of the site demolition. The lease for the building was the first Commonwealth green lease to be negotiated.

Phosphate Resources Limited has held its current mining lease on Christmas Island since 1990. Under this lease it is required to pay a conservation levy and to comply with an environmental management plan for its mining sites. The levy, collected by the Department, is used to fund the work undertaken by Parks Australia North, a division of the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, in rehabilitating mining sites on Christmas Island. All rehabilitation work is reviewed by the Christmas Island Rain Forest Rehabilitation Group, chaired by the Department and made up of representatives from both Australian and State government agencies and industry groups, to ensure best practice rain forest rehabilitation is undertaken on Christmas Island.

The Attorney-General’s Department participated in Earth Hour 2009 on Saturday 28 March. This activity continues to raise awareness among staff about ways they can help fight global warming.

1 GovDex is the collaborative web portal project developed by the Department of Finance and Deregulation.

2 Australian Government agencies involved in discussions with the Department are AusAID, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

3 For more information on these principles, see the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts’ website.

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