The Solicitor-General is the second law officer of the Commonwealth of Australia.
The functions of the Solicitor-General under s 12 of the Law Officer's Act 1964 (Cth) are to act as counsel for the Commonwealth and its emanations, to furnish opinions on questions of law referred to him by the Attorney-General and to perform such other functions ordinarily performed by counsel as the Attorney requests.
The Solicitor-General appears in most matters in the High Court of Australia involving the Commonwealth and its emanations and in select matters of importance in the intermediate appellate courts of Australia. The Solicitor-General has a wide practice, appearing in matters involving constitutional law, extradition, migration, native title, trade practices, taxation, corporations, customs, international arbitration and criminal law.
The Solicitor-General will ordinarily appear as one of the counsel representing the Commonwealth in all matters before international judicial and arbitral tribunals.
The Solicitor-General also provides a substantial number of legal opinions each year in Commonwealth matters.
The Solicitor-General is assisted by two counsel assisting and also works in close collaboration with senior officers of the Attorney-General's Department, Australian Government Solicitor, other key departments and agencies and with leading counsel from the private bar.
Dr Stephen Donaghue QC
Dr Stephen Donaghue QC was appointed Solicitor-General on 14 December 2016 and commenced in the role on 16 January 2017. He holds degrees in Arts and Law from the University of Melbourne, and received the Supreme Court Prize as the top graduate in law at the University of Melbourne in 1995. He also holds a DPhil from Oxford University (Magdalen College), where he studied after receiving Menzies and Commonwealth scholarships. Prior to commencing at the Bar, Dr Donaghue was an Associate to Justice Hayne at the High Court of Australia.
Dr Donaghue joined the Victorian Bar in 2001, and took silk in 2011. He appeared regularly before the Full Court of the High Court, principally in matters involving constitutional and administrative law, and he also appeared in many complex appellate and trial matters in the Federal Court of Australia.
He is a Senior Fellow at the University of Melbourne Law School. Prior to his appointment, he was also the Chair of the Public Law Section of the Commercial Bar Association and a member of the Constitutional Law Committee of the Law Council of Australia.