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 Chapter 2 - 2010-11 snapshot


2010-11 snapshot

Our role

The Attorney-General’s Department serves the people of Australia by upholding the rule of law and by providing essential expert support to the Australian government to maintain and improve Australia’s system of law and justice, its national security and emergency management systems, and natural disaster relief.

Figure 1: Attorney-General’s Department mission and outcomes structure, 2010–11

Figure 1: Attorney-General’s Department mission and outcomes structure, 2010–11


Strategic Plan 2010–2012

The Department’s Strategic Plan 2010–2012 sets out its priorities in accomplishing its mission: achieving a just and secure society. The strategic plan consists of seven strategic aims supported by the planning, performance and governance frameworks and the leadership and value statements.

The Department’s strategic aims are:

  • improving access to justice
  • enhancing national security
  • combating organised crime
  • improving identity and technology security
  • protecting human rights and supporting Indigenous communities
  • strengthening emergency management and building resilience, and
  • enhancing productivity and service delivery.

The Strategic Plan can be viewed online at: <http://www.ag.gov.au/About/Pages/default.aspx>.

Our financial performance

The total annual appropriation funding for the Department for 2010–11 was $1987.7 million, including $332.2 million for departmental outputs and $602.9 million for administered expenses (see Figure 2).

The Department also received appropriation funding of $8.8 million in equity injections for capital projects, $18.4 million for administered assets and an estimate of $911.5 million for special appropriations.

See Chapter 13 for information on the Department’s financial performance.

Figure 2: 2010–11 appropriations

Figure 2: 2010–11 appropriations


Our people

At 30 June 2011, the Department’s workforce comprised 1522 employees. Of these, 1394 were ongoing, 128 were non-ongoing, 89.6 per cent were working full-time, and 10.4 per cent were working part-time. Thirty-one employees were also employed on a casual basis.

The Department primarily operates from Canberra where 93.3 per cent of the workforce is located. The remainder of the Department’s staff work from Sydney, New South Wales (2.7 per cent), Victoria (2.5 per cent) and other locations throughout Australia, including Brisbane (0.9 per cent), with the rest located in Papua New Guinea (0.7 per cent).

The Department employs a diverse workforce. Women account for 61.4 per cent of the employees, which is slightly above the Australian Public Service average. The workforce age profile is comparatively younger than other public service agencies, with the bulk of employees aged below 40.

The number of employees from non-English speaking backgrounds has increased by 5 per cent on last year and now represents 13 per cent of the workforce. The number of staff identifying as Indigenous also increased from 1.3 percent to 1.6 per cent, while the number of staff with disability decreased from 1.5 per cent to 1.4 per cent.

The rate of employee turnover remained relatively steady in 2010–11 with 393, or 24.9 per cent, of employees (ongoing and non-ongoing) ceasing employment, excluding those leaving the Department as part of machinery of government changes, compared with 395, or 26 per cent, in the previous year. The average length of service for employees is 4.4 years. Of the 274 ongoing employees who ceased employment with the Department, 124 transferred to other Australian Public Service agencies on promotion or ongoing transfer.

Chapter 14 discusses management of the Department’s human resources. A full staffing profile, excluding casual employees, is provided at Appendix 8.


Strategic Policy and Coordination Group

  • During the year the Department began upgrading and modernising its financial management information system. The process includes a technical upgrade to the current version of the system, implementing business process improvements to introduce efficiencies to procurement and invoice payments and receipts, grants management and financial reporting. The first phase, updating the Department’s system to the current version, was completed successfully on time and within budget.
  • The Department began addressing the Gov 2.0 report, Engage: getting on with government, by increasing the use of online tools and platforms for internal collaboration. The Department is extending its online collaboration program by connecting and working with portfolio agencies, other government agencies, State and Territory government agencies, non-government organisations, business and the public. See page 28 for a case study on this project.
  • Over the past year the Department also procured and implemented the ‘ExecCorro for Government Suite’, an electronic system which manages the workflow of ministerial and parliamentary correspondence. ExecCorro also significantly improves the tracking, reporting and timeliness of ministerial responses. As a direct result of the implementation of ExecCorro, the Department has reduced the number of items of overdue ministerial correspondence to a record low number.

Civil Justice and Legal Services Group

  • As part of the Strategic Framework for Access to Justice in the Federal Civil Justice System, the Department worked with the Office of Parliamentary Counsel to introduce a package of initiatives to improve clarity and reduce complexity of commonwealth laws. This included publishing the Quick reference guide to developing clearer laws and launching a clearer laws website <http://www.ag.gov.au/LegalSystem/ReducingTheComplexityOfLegislation/Pages/default.aspx>. See page 73 for a case study on this project.
  • The Civil Dispute Resolution Act 2011, which encourages parties to take genuine steps to resolve their dispute before proceedings are commenced in the Federal Court of Australia or the Federal Magistrates Court, received Royal Assent on 12 April 2011. The Act is consistent with the Government’s Access to Justice Framework, which aims to have disputes resolved as early as possible and at the lowest possible cost.
  • The Australian Government administrative law policy guide <http://www.ag.gov.au/LegalSystem/AdministrativeLaw/Pages/default.aspx> was published during the year and is designed to help policymakers understand how Commonwealth administrative law works, identify administrative law issues in draft legislation or proposals (including policy matters), and understand the approaches that can be taken to address those issues.
  • The Department delivered a number of initiatives to improve the family law system’s response to family violence including the Family Law Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2011, the AVERT Family Violence training package and the Coordinated Family Dispute Resolution pilot. It is also developing a common risk identification framework across the family law system to identify domestic and family violence.
  • In May 2011, the Department filed written submissions in Whaling in the Antarctic (Australia v Japan), a case brought by Australia before the International Court of Justice. The Department is responsible for running the case, which seeks to end Japan’s whaling in the Southern Ocean.
  • The Department led development of the Criminal Code Amendment (Cluster Munitions Prohibition) Bill 2010. This Bill will ensure that Australian domestic law is consistent with the Convention on Cluster Munitions and gives effect to the convention’s requirement for state parties to impose penal sanctions for conduct prohibited by the convention.
  • The Department participated in the International Criminal Court’s inaugural Review Conference, which adopted an amendment to the Rome Statute defining the crime of aggression. Once in force, this amendment will enable the Court to try individuals responsible for acts of aggression in manifest violation of the Charter of the United Nations.
  • Officers from the Department represented Australia in the Australia – measures affecting the importation of apples from New Zealand dispute appeal, which was heard before the World Trade Organization Appellate Body on 11 and 12 October 2010.
  • The Department coordinated Australia’s first Universal Periodic Review before the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2011. After lodging its National Report for the Universal Periodic Review to the United Nations in October 2010, Australia appeared before the Human Rights Council on 27 January 2011 and received 145 recommendations. See page 69 for a case study on this project.
  • The Sex and Age Discrimination Legislation Amendment Act 2011 received Royal Assent on 20 June 2011. The Act strengthens protection against sexual harassment and discrimination on the basis of breastfeeding and family responsibilities and creates the position of Age Discrimination Commissioner in the Australian Human Rights Commission for the first time at the federal level.
  • The Department has rebuilt ComLaw to make it faster and smarter. This whole-of-government website is used by up to 40,000 people a day, and provides free public access to the text and history of all recent Commonwealth legislation as well as a growing body of historic material. See page 41 for a case study on this project.
  • The National Legal Profession Reform Taskforce, which was Chaired by Secretary Roger Wilkins AO, lodged its final proposed Legal Profession National Law, National Rules and accompanying package with the Council of Australian Governments at the end of 2010.
  • Arrangements were finalised for hosting the Commonwealth Law Ministers Meeting, which will be held in Sydney in July 2011.
  • The Attorney-General hosted the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General Harmonisation Forum on 27 May, which was attended by several ministers, lawyers, business people, academics and senior officials from Australian jurisdictions. The Forum discussed microeconomic reform proposals for the justice sector.
  • The National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services came into effect on 1 July 2010. The Agreement will facilitate reform in the legal assistance sector and provide access to justice for disadvantaged Australians through the delivery of legal assistance services.
  • A more flexible approach to resolving the Government’s involvement in native title claims was implemented to speed up resolutions and improve outcomes for all stakeholders. During the year, the Government was a party to four consent determinations of native title. See page 92 for a case study on native title.
  • Three-year funding agreements were put in place from 2010–11 to enhance strategic planning for delivery of Family Violence Prevention Legal Services. Other reforms to the program will provide greater flexibility for grant recipients to manage funds and reduce the administrative burden of reporting. The Department supported the service providers in constructing stronger, more resilient organisational, management and governance structures.

National Security and Criminal Justice Group

  • The Department led the Government’s involvement in developing the National Strategy for Disaster Resilience which was adopted by the Council of Australian Governments on 13 February 2011. The strategy provides high-level guidance to all levels of government, business, the non-government sector, communities and individuals on building disaster resilience. See page 127 for a case study on this project.
  • During the year the Department was responsible for planning and conducting the Australian component of a large-scale international cyber security exercise called Cyber Storm III. The exercise was designed to evaluate Australia’s new interim crisis management arrangements during a nationally
    significant cyber security event across government, business and industry. See page 118 for a case study on this exercise.
  • The Department has gained agreement from Victoria and Western Australia to participate as a member of the Document Verification Service (DVS). This allows the DVS to provide a fully functional national service aimed at strengthening identity management and security by verifying a person’s identity documents.
  • The Department coordinated a whole-of-government approach to response and recovery efforts for the many natural disasters experienced in Australia during the year. Support was also provided for the Australian Government response to international disasters, including the 2010 Pakistan floods and the 2011 New Zealand and Japan earthquakes, by coordinating the deployment of domestic resources. See page 101 for a case study on this project.
  • As part of the National Crisis Coordination Capability Program, in October the Department delivered a briefing room at Parliament House in Canberra to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. The room is a networked facility designed to support executive decision-making during large-scale emergencies.
  • In 2009, the Australian Emergency Management Institute board agreed to continue developing the Institute into a centre of excellence for knowledge and skills development in emergency management and started the process of implementing this new strategic direction.
  • The Department integrated external technical capabilities with the Critical Infrastructure Program for Modelling and Analysis team to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of strategic planning advice to government and industry.
  • The Department continued leading legislative amendments to enhance information sharing and interoperability between national security agencies, as well as amending national security and counter-terrorism legislation in response to various reviews.
  • Two national grants programs were also launched during the year to promote community driven projects that counter violent extremism. Both the Building Community Resilience Grants Program and the Building Community Resilience (Youth Mentoring) Grants Program support ongoing activities that help communities build resilience to extremist ideologies and beliefs.
  • In July 2010, the Department commenced national health security checks for the Department of Health and Ageing as part of the security sensitive biological agents regulatory scheme. The work was undertaken through the Department’s AusCheck service.
  • The Department led the development of the multi-agency Commonwealth Organised Crime Response Plan to address three critical risks to the Australian community – amphetamine-type stimulants, money laundering and identity crime. The plan was launched by the Minister for Home Affairs and Justice in November 2010.
  • In October 2010, the Department led a meeting with officers from New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada to progress work under the Declaration to Cooperate in Combating Organised Crime, entered into in April 2010 by the Attorneys-General of the five countries, known as the Quintet Group on Organised Crime.
  • The Department led work to develop options for a national domestic violence order (DVO) scheme, including introducing automatic mutual recognition legislation and considering a national DVO information-sharing capability.
  • The Department continued to lead the work of the National Cyber Crime Working Group to develop a nationally coordinated response to cyber crime. This included considering the feasibility of a national online cyber crime reporting facility and improving law enforcement capacity to respond to cyber crime. See page 114 for a case study on this project.
  • Following the passage of the Law and Justice Legislation (Identity Crimes and Other Measures) Bill 2010 in February 2011, three new identity crimes offences were introduced into the Commonwealth Criminal Code.
  • The Department helped develop and establish the Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce, which commenced operation in January 2011. See page 194 for a case study on this project.
  • The Department developed policy and legislation to introduce an enhanced regulation scheme to detect and deter criminal infiltration into the alternative remittance sector through the enactment of the Combating the Financing of People Smuggling and Other Measures Act 2011 in June 2011.

Areas for improvement

  • Whole-of-government cooperation on combating terrorism and enhancing disaster management will continue to be improved by working with agencies and the community to develop strategies, projects and programs that enhance cooperation, while maintaining an operational focus on prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.
  • The Department is continuing to implement the whole-of-government information and communications technology sustainability plan, which mandates environmental standards for information and communications technology acquisitions and energy targets.
  • A package of reforms will be developed to strengthen the Marriage Celebrants Program and improve the professionalism of marriage celebrants.
  • Work will continue with States and Territories to improve the interface between the family law and child protection systems. The focus of this work is to improve information sharing between the systems and streamline jurisdictions to improve outcomes for children.
  • The Department will continue to facilitate a consistent national approach to intercountry adoption processes and service delivery in Australia.
  • The Department is also considering proposed risk management measures for chemicals of security concern to address the risks identified through security risk assessments. These draft measures will be the subject of a Regulation Impact Statement in 2011.
  • Australia is continuing its steps in its proposed accession to the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime.
  • The Department will continue to progress the commitment to legal services reform, particularly in relation to procurement of legal services by Commonwealth agencies. This follows on from the Roundtable of Commonwealth agencies and law firms convened by the Attorney-General in February 2011.
  • Work is continuing with agencies to improve the framework for reporting on legal services expenditure. This initiative will help achieve greater transparency and consistency of information.
  • Support for national microeconomic reform will continue through mutual recognition and harmonisation of laws through the Standing Council of Law and Justice. The Department will also scope possible reforms to commercial contract law at the Commonwealth level. This is expected to deliver efficiencies to Australian businesses by clarifying and modernising the law, and strengthening parties’ ability to choose the relevant law and dispute resolution mechanisms for their contract.
  • A range of options are being considered to address online copyright infringement and to examine the impact of litigation involving iiNet and the film industry. A proposal will be progressed to adopt a broader definition of ‘carriage service provider’ to expand the scope of the current safe harbour scheme to entities that do not provide network access, but provide online services, to give greater certainty under the Copyright Act 1968.
  • Work will continue to identify and promote measures to improve legal assistance service delivery. This includes measures for better delivery of information and services, early intervention to prevent escalation, and promotion and use of alternative dispute resolution.
  • Support will continue for the delivery of night patrol services to remote communities in the Northern Territory. The Department recognises the challenges faced by providers in delivering these services and will focus on implementing an improved performance management framework, a community awareness strategy and standard training for night patrol staff.