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Chapter 6 - Outcome 1

 

Outcome 1

A just and secure society through the maintenance and improvement of Australia’s law and justice framework and its national security and emergency management system

 

Overview

The Attorney-General’s Department made significant progress towards the achievement of Outcome 1 through the development of policies and programs aimed at improving Australia’s law and justice framework and national security and emergency management system.

The Department undertook a broad range of work to improve the family law system’s response to family violence, through:

  • the launch of the AVERT Family Violence training package
  • the Coordinated Family Dispute Resolution pilot
  • the passage of the Family Law Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2011
  • the development of a common risk identification framework for family violence, and
  • the implementation of three-year funding agreements to enhance the delivery of the Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Program.

Together, these, and other, initiatives will improve levels of understanding about the dynamics of family violence as well as handling of family violence cases.

Work continued on the development of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Safe Communities Strategy. Actions from the Strategy will be coordinated with those of State and Territory governments, in collaboration with Indigenous leaders and individuals, to contribute to the realisation of the broader Closing the Gap agenda.

Additionally, 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.

The Department continued to promote the Access to Justice Framework which aims to improve access to justice for all Australians. A faster and smarter version of ComLaw was released to provide enhanced free public access to Commonwealth legislation through the internet. The Department also developed a Quick reference guide to developing clearer laws and the Clearer Laws website which aim to make legislation easier to understand and implement.

Another access to justice initiative, the Civil Dispute Resolution Act 2011, which passed in 2010–11, encourages parties to take genuine steps to resolve their dispute before it reaches the court system. This promotes resolution of disputes as early as possible and at the lowest possible cost.

The National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services came into effect on 1 July 2010. The Agreement facilitates reform in the legal assistance sector and provides access to justice for disadvantaged Australians through the delivery of legal assistance services.

The Department continues to engage domestically and internationally on human rights issues and successfully coordinated Australia’s first Universal Periodic Review, which required significant domestic consultation. This was presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2010–11 and resulted in Australia receiving a range of recommendations. The Government has accepted a large number of these recommendations.

In May 2011, the Department filed its 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.

In 2010–11, the Department led the development of a multi-agency Commonwealth Organised Crime Response Plan to address money laundering, amphetamine-type stimulants and identity crime. It facilitated the introduction of legislative changes which will enhance coordination and information sharing between national security agencies.

During the year the Department developed a new Protective Security Policy Framework. The Framework is simpler than previous policies, freely available on the internet, and places more emphasis on the digital environment we now work in.  The Framework is made up of four levels allowing those who are responsible for protective security to quickly find information that is relevant to their needs. 

The Department also led initiatives to provide high level guidance to government, business and the community in the national security and criminal justice sphere, including:

  • developing the National Strategy for Disaster Resilience
  • establishing the Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce, and
  • furthering the work of the National Cyber Crime Working Group to develop a nationally coordinated response to cyber crime.

These initiatives are the result of strong national cooperation and coordination efforts facilitated by the Department. The National Strategy for Disaster Resilience was developed in collaboration with the States and Territories, and was informed by consultation with researchers, academics, industry, and non-government organisations. The Strategy recognises that a national, coordinated and cooperative effort is needed to enhance Australia’s capacity to withstand and recover from disasters. 

The Department actively worked with international partners to respond to emerging global challenges during the year:

  • Work was undertaken to progress the Declaration to Cooperate in Combating Organised Crime, an agreement between Australia, New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada
  • The Department led Australia’s involvement in Cyber Storm III, a large-scale international cyber security exercise, which was designed to evaluate Australia’s interim crisis management arrangements during a nationally significant cyber security event
  • The Department coordinated deployment of Australian resources in response to the 2010 Pakistan floods and the 2011 New Zealand earthquake and 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami

Outlook for 2011–12

In 2011–12, the Department will continue to develop and implement initiatives aimed at maintaining and improving Australia’s law and justice framework and its national security and emergency management system.

The Department will continue to promote the Strategic Framework for Access to Justice in the Federal Civil Justice System, to provide a basis for future decisions on the reform of the justice system, promote access to justice, and help overcome social exclusion.

Work will be undertaken to finalise the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Safe Communities Strategy. The Department will take a leading role in cross-agency work to prepare a response to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs report into Indigenous youth and the criminal justice system, Doing Time – Time for Doing.

The Department will also continue implementing a more flexible approach to resolving native title claims and issues of significance to the Government and to the native title system as a whole.

Australia’s Human Rights Framework demonstrates the Government’s commitment to respect and promote human rights. Underpinning this, the development of a new national action plan on human rights will begin in 2011–12 and will include the production of a baseline study on human rights issues in Australia. In 2011–12, an education and training program will commence to raise awareness and understanding of Australia’s international human rights obligations among Australian public servants.

The Department’s lead role in defending Australia’s interests in international litigation will continue, including in relation to Japan’s whaling in the Southern Ocean and Australia’s proposed tobacco plain packaging legislation.

Policy considerations for copyright, illegal use of copyright material, and the digital economy will also continue to be a key focus. The Government will consider a number of options if its preference for an industry-based solution to copyright infringement is not achieved.

In the year ahead, the Department will work with other departments and stakeholders on proposed reforms to clarify and update commercial contract law. Work will continue with the Treasury on aligning personal and corporate insolvency laws and improving the effectiveness of the law that applies to debt agreements. The reformed personal property securities system, including a national register, is scheduled to commence in October 2011.

The Attorney-General has asked the Department and International Legal Services Advisory Council to identify key international markets for the Australian legal and related services sector. The Department will continue to pursue reform in the provision of legal services to the Government, particularly in progressing proposed reforms to the Commonwealth’s legal services procurement arrangements.

The Department will also continue to focus on an all-hazards approach to national security and emergency management, balanced by a strong law and justice framework. The Department will work to strengthen whole-of-government cooperation with law enforcement and national security agencies and the community to develop strategies, projects, legislation and programs that enhance cooperation, while maintaining an operational focus on prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.

A comprehensive implementation plan to deliver a range of initiatives under the National Strategy for Disaster Resilience has been developed.  Implementation will focus on leading behavioural change, communicating with and educating people about risks, partnering with those who effect change, reducing risks in the built environment and supporting capabilities for disaster resilience.  Key to the successful implementation of the National Strategy for Disaster Resilience will be the communication of the resilience message.  Federal, State and Territory police and emergency management Ministers will be actively promoting disaster resilience ahead of the development of a national disaster awareness campaign.

Ministers have also endorsed the National Strategy for the Prevention of Bushfire Arson. In 2011–12,
implementation of this Strategy will include: the establishment of a public website or portal to
provide ready access to community information on arson; creation of an intranet platform to provide investigators with a secure environment to exchange information; the provision of advice on best practice arson prevention strategies, and support for a Wildfire Arson Investigation Management Course.

The completion of the Australian Government Crisis Coordination Centre project in September 2011 will deliver facilities for Australian Government collaboration and coordination of information during domestic crises. The Centre will enhance existing information and communication technologies to improve connectivity across Australian Government and jurisdictional agencies during emergencies.

The Department will continue to work with international partners in combating transnational crime, through developing and strengthening frameworks for international legal cooperation, and progressing proposed legislative reforms to Australia’s extradition and mutual legal assistance arrangements. During 2011–12, the Department will work with experts from the United States, Turkey and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to complete a review of Australia’s compliance with key chapters of the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

The Department will continue to deliver its significant program of capacity building work on strengthening the legal responses to transnational crime in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Pacific and Africa. It will also work with AusAID to implement aspects of the Independent Review of Aid Effectiveness (Holloway Review) which may impact on the Department’s work.

The Department will also continue to work on:

  • Australia’s proposed accession to the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime
  • Australia’s response to the emerging challenges of cyber security
  • the National Identity Security Strategy, in collaboration with the States and Territories, and
  • enhanced counter-terrorism efforts including developing risk management measures for chemicals of security concern.