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International law

Public international law consists of rules and principles which facilitate the conduct of states and international organisations in their relations with one another and, in some cases, with individuals, groups and transnational companies.

Office of International Law

The Office of International Law (OIL) within the Attorney-General's Department provides international law advice to the Australian Government. This includes legal and policy advice across government on issues involving public international law, and domestic and international litigation involving public international law. OIL also develops and implements international law projects within the Attorney-General's responsibilities and assists in treaty negotiations.

Areas of work undertaken by the Office of International Law include:

General international law

  • air and space law (eg jurisdiction on aircraft, international aviation standards)
  • law of the sea and maritime boundaries (eg freedom of navigation, access to maritime resources, safety at sea)
  • border protection issues including refugee law and asylum seekers
  • double taxation and banking
  • international environmental law (eg climate change, conservation, fisheries)
  • international organisations (eg United Nations)
  • offshore constitutional settlement
  • Antarctic law
  • treatment and jurisdiction over Australians overseas
  • resolution of international disputes to which Australia is a party
  • foreign state immunity
  • application of section 51(xxix) of the Constitution (external affairs power).

International security law

  • legal constraints on the use of military force
  • international humanitarian law (eg rules of engagement, means and methods of warfare, detention of persons during armed conflict)
  • other legal obligations relating to Australia's military, police and civilian deployments (eg privileges and immunities)
  • international law related to aviation, maritime, space and cyber security,(eg air security officer arrangements, piracy)
  • disarmament, non-proliferation, counter-proliferation and safeguarding of conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction (eg civil nuclear cooperation agreements, United Nations Security Council sanctions and autonomous sanctions)
  • international law aimed at countering terrorism
  • international criminal law (eg war crimes and the operation and jurisprudence of international criminal tribunals such as the International Criminal Court).

International trade law

  • international trade law
  • investment law
  • intellectual property.

International human rights law

  • compatibility of Australian legislation with Australia's international human rights obligations
  • international human rights law, including in relation to:
    • the right to equality and non-discrimination (eg on the basis of sex, race, disability or other relevant ground)
    • other civil and political rights (eg fair trial rights, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, right to life, freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, non-refoulement)
    • economic, social and cultural rights (eg rights to education, health, adequate standard of living)
    • children's rights.


Information on Australia's domestic treaty-making process and treaties to which Australia is a signatory or party is available on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website.