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Attorney-General of Australia

Attorney-General of Australia
Incumbent
Mark Dreyfus
since 1 June 2022
Attorney-General's Department
StyleThe Honourable (formal)
Attorney-General (spoken)
Member ofCabinet of Australia
Federal Executive Council
National Security Committee
Indigenous Policy Committee
Governance Committee
Reports toPrime Minister
SeatCanberra, ACT
NominatorPrime Minister
AppointerGovernor-General
on the advice of the prime minister
Term lengthAt the Governor-General's pleasure
Constituting instrumentSection 64, Constitution of Australia
Formation1 January 1901
First holderAlfred Deakin
Salary$336,599.25 (AUD)[1]
Websiteministers.ag.gov.au/hon-mark-dreyfus-kc-mp

The attorney-general of Australia (AG) is the minister of state of the Commonwealth of Australia and chief law officer of state, charged with overseeing the national legal affairs and public security as the head of the Attorney-General’s Department. The current attorney-general is Mark Dreyfus, who was appointed by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in June 2022 following the 2022 Australian federal election.[2] By convention, the attorney-general is a lawyer by profession, being either a barrister or solicitor.

The Attorney-General is one of only four positions in the commonwealth government to have continuously been held since federation, along with the prime minister, the minister for Defence and the treasurer.[3]

The current attorney-general is assisted in his portfolio by the Assistant Minister for the Republic held by Matt Thistlethwaite.[4]

History

The attorney-general is nearly always a person with legal training, and eleven former attorneys-general have received senior judicial appointments after their ministerial service.

Billy Hughes was the longest-serving attorney-general of Australia, serving for thirteen and a half years over four non-consecutive terms; this included six years during his own prime ministership.

Historically, the attorney-generalship was seen as a stepping stone to higher office – Alfred Deakin, Billy Hughes, and Robert Menzies all became prime minister, while John Latham, H. V. Evatt, and Billy Snedden were leaders of the opposition. Lionel Bowen was deputy prime minister under Bob Hawke in the 1980s. Additionally, four former attorneys-general have won appointment to the High CourtIsaac Isaacs, H. B. Higgins, John Latham, Garfield Barwick, and Lionel Murphy. Isaacs later became governor-general.

Role and functions

Role

The attorney-general is the minister responsible for legal affairs, national and public security. The attorney-general also serves as a general legal adviser to the Cabinet, and has carriage of legislation dealing with copyright, human rights and a range of other subjects. They are responsible for the Australian Law Reform Commission and the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity.

Functions

Functions of the state and federal attorneys-general include the administration of the selection of persons for nomination to judicial posts and the authorizing of prosecutions. In normal circumstances, the prosecutorial powers of the attorney-general are exercised by the Director of Public Prosecutions and staff; however, the attorney-general maintains formal control—including the power to initiate and terminate public prosecutions and take over private prosecutions.

Statutory criminal law provides that prosecutions for certain offences require the individual consent of the attorney-general. This is generally for offences whose illegality is of a somewhat controversial nature or where there is perceived to be a significant risk that prosecutions of a political nature may be embarked upon. The attorney-general also generally has the power to issue certificates legally conclusive of certain facts (e.g., that the revelation of certain matters in court proceedings might constitute a risk to national security); the facts stated in such certificates must be accepted by the courts and cannot legally be disputed by any parties. The attorney-general also has the power to issue a nolle prosequi with respect to a case, which authoritatively determines that the state (in whose name prosecutions are brought) does not wish to prosecute the case, so preventing any person from doing so.

Relationship with the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation

See: Australian Security Intelligence Organisation

List of attorneys-general

The following individuals have been appointed as attorney-general for Australia:[5]

Order Minister Party Prime Minister Prior legal experience Alma mater Term start Term end Term in office
1 Alfred Deakin KC   Protectionist Barton Barrister University of Melbourne 1 January 1901 (1901-01-01) 24 September 1903 (1903-09-24) 2 years, 266 days
2 Senator James Drake Deakin Barrister King's College School, London 24 September 1903 (1903-09-24) 27 April 1904 (1904-04-27) 216 days
3 H. B. Higgins QC Protectionist1 Watson Barrister University of Melbourne 27 April 1904 (1904-04-27) 17 August 1904 (1904-08-17) 112 days
4 Senator Sir Josiah Symon, KCMG, QC Free Trade Reid Barrister Free Church Training College 17 August 1904 (1904-08-17) 5 July 1905 (1905-07-05) 322 days
5 Isaac Isaacs QC Protectionist Deakin Barrister University of Melbourne 5 July 1905 (1905-07-05) 12 October 1906 (1906-10-12) 1 year, 99 days
6 Littleton Groom KC Lawyer University of Melbourne 12 October 1906 (1906-10-12) 13 November 1908 (1908-11-13) 2 years, 32 days
7 Billy Hughes, KC2 Labor Fisher Barrister n/a 13 November 1908 (1908-11-13) 2 June 1909 (1909-06-02) 201 days
8 Paddy Glynn, KCMG, KC Commonwealth
Liberal
Deakin Barrister Trinity College Dublin 2 June 1909 (1909-06-02) 29 April 1910 (1910-04-29) 331 days
n/a Billy Hughes KC Labor Fisher Barrister n/a 29 April 1910 (1910-04-29) 24 June 1913 (1913-06-24) 3 years, 56 days
9 William Irvine KC Commonwealth
Liberal
Cook Barrister Trinity College, Dublin; University of Melbourne 24 June 1913 (1913-06-24) 17 September 1914 (1914-09-17) 1 year, 85 days
n/a Billy Hughes KC Labor Fisher Barrister n/a 17 September 1914 (1914-09-17) 27 October 1915 (1915-10-27) 7 years, 95 days
Hughes 27 October 1915 (1915-10-27) 14 November 1916 (1916-11-14)
National Labor 14 November 1916 (1916-11-14) 13 June 1917 (1917-06-13)
Nationalist 13 June 1917 (1917-06-13) 21 December 1921 (1921-12-21)
n/a Sir Littleton Groom, KCMG, KC Lawyer University of Melbourne 21 December 1921 (1921-12-21) 9 February 1923 (1923-02-09) 3 years, 362 days
Bruce 9 February 1923 (1923-02-09) 18 December 1925 (1925-12-18)
10 John Latham KC Barrister University of Melbourne 18 December 1925 (1925-12-18) 22 October 1929 (1929-10-22) 3 years, 308 days
11 Frank Brennan Labor Scullin Barrister University of Melbourne 22 October 1929 (1929-10-22) 6 January 1932 (1932-01-06) 2 years, 76 days
n/a Sir John Latham, GCMG, KC United Australia Lyons Barrister University of Melbourne 6 January 1932 (1932-01-06) 12 October 1934 (1934-10-12) 2 years, 279 days
12 Robert Menzies KC Barrister University of Melbourne 12 October 1934 (1934-10-12) 20 March 1939 (1939-03-20) 4 years, 159 days
n/a Billy Hughes, CH, KC Barrister n/a 20 March 1939 (1939-03-20) 7 April 1939 (1939-04-07) 2 years, 201 days
Page 7 April 1939 (1939-04-07) 26 April 1939 (1939-04-26)
Menzies 26 April 1939 (1939-04-26) 29 August 1941 (1941-08-29)
Fadden 29 August 1941 (1941-08-29) 7 October 1941 (1941-10-07)
13 H. V. Evatt KC Labor Curtin Barrister, Judge University of Sydney 7 October 1941 (1941-10-07) 6 July 1945 (1945-07-06) 8 years, 73 days
Forde 6 July 1945 (1945-07-06) 13 July 1945 (1945-07-13)
Chifley 13 July 1945 (1945-07-13) 19 December 1949 (1949-12-19)
14 Senator John Spicer KC Liberal Menzies Barrister University of Melbourne 19 December 1949 (1949-12-19) 14 August 1956 (1956-08-14) 6 years, 239 days
15 Senator Neil O'Sullivan Solicitor 15 August 1956 (1956-08-15) 12 October 1958 (1958-10-12) 2 years, 58 days
16 Sir Garfield Barwick QC Barrister University of Sydney 12 October 1958 (1958-10-12) 4 March 1964 (1964-03-04) 5 years, 144 days
17 Billy Snedden QC Barrister University of Western Australia 4 March 1964 (1964-03-04) 26 January 1966 (1966-01-26) 2 years, 285 days
Holt 26 January 1966 (1966-01-26) 14 December 1966 (1966-12-14)
18 Nigel Bowen QC Barrister University of Sydney 14 December 1966 (1966-12-14) 19 December 1967 (1967-12-19) 2 years, 333 days
McEwen 19 December 1967 (1967-12-19) 10 January 1968 (1968-01-10)
Gorton 10 January 1968 (1968-01-10) 12 November 1969 (1969-11-12)
19 Tom Hughes QC Barrister University of Sydney 12 November 1969 (1969-11-12) 10 March 1971 (1971-03-10) 1 year, 130 days
McMahon 10 March 1971 (1971-03-10) 22 March 1971 (1971-03-22)
n/a Nigel Bowen Barrister University of Sydney 22 March 1971 (1971-03-22) 2 August 1971 (1971-08-02) 133 days
20 Senator Ivor Greenwood QC Barrister University of Melbourne 2 August 1971 (1971-08-02) 5 December 1972 (1972-12-05) 1 year, 125 days
21 Gough Whitlam QC3 Labor Whitlam Barrister University of Sydney 5 December 1972 (1972-12-05) 19 December 1972 (1972-12-19) 14 days
22 Senator Lionel Murphy QC Barrister University of Sydney 19 December 1972 (1972-12-19) 10 February 1975 (1975-02-10) 2 years, 53 days
23 Kep Enderby QC Barrister University of Sydney
University of London
10 February 1975 (1975-02-10) 11 November 1975 (1975-11-11) 274 days
n/a Senator Ivor Greenwood QC Liberal Fraser Barrister University of Melbourne 11 November 1975 (1975-11-11) 22 December 1975 (1975-12-22) 41 days
24 Bob Ellicott QC Barrister University of Sydney 22 December 1975 (1975-12-22) 6 September 1977 (1977-09-06) 1 year, 258 days
25 Senator Peter Durack QC Barrister University of Western Australia
Lincoln College, Oxford
6 September 1977 (1977-09-06) 11 March 1983 (1983-03-11) 5 years, 186 days
26 Senator Gareth Evans QC Labor Hawke Barrister University of Melbourne
Magdalen College, Oxford
11 March 1983 (1983-03-11) 13 December 1984 (1984-12-13) 1 year, 277 days
27 Lionel Bowen Solicitor University of Sydney 13 December 1984 (1984-12-13) 4 April 1990 (1990-04-04) 5 years, 112 days
28 Michael Duffy, ONZ Solicitor University of Melbourne 4 April 1990 (1990-04-04) 27 December 1991 (1991-12-27) 2 years, 354 days
Keating 27 December 1991 (1991-12-27) 24 March 1993 (1993-03-24)
29 Duncan Kerr4 Labor Keating Barrister University of Tasmania 1 April 1993 (1993-04-01) 27 April 1993 (1993-04-27) 26 days
30 Michael Lavarch Solicitor Queensland University of Technology 27 April 1993 (1993-04-27) 11 March 1996 (1996-03-11) 2 years, 319 days
31 Daryl Williams, AM, QC Liberal Howard Barrister University of Western Australia
Wadham College, Oxford
11 March 1996 (1996-03-11) 7 October 2003 (2003-10-07) 7 years, 210 days
32 Philip Ruddock Solicitor University of Sydney 7 October 2003 (2003-10-07) 3 December 2007 (2007-12-03) 4 years, 57 days
33 Robert McClelland Labor Rudd Solicitor University of New South Wales
University of Sydney
3 December 2007 (2007-12-03) 24 June 2010 (2010-06-24) 4 years, 11 days
Gillard 24 June 2010 (2010-06-24) 14 December 2011 (2011-12-14)
34 Nicola Roxon Solicitor University of Melbourne 14 December 2011 (2011-12-14) 2 February 2013 (2013-02-02) 1 year, 50 days
35 Mark Dreyfus QC Barrister University of Melbourne 2 February 2013 (2013-02-02) 26 June 2013 (2013-06-26) 228 days
Rudd 26 June 2013 (2013-06-26) 18 September 2013 (2013-09-18)
36 Senator George Brandis QC Liberal Abbott Barrister University of Queensland; Magdalen College, Oxford 18 September 2013 (2013-09-18) 15 September 2015 (2015-09-15) 4 years, 93 days
Turnbull 15 September 2015 (2015-09-15) 20 December 2017 (2017-12-20)
37 Christian Porter Lawyer University of Western Australia, London School of Economics 20 December 2017 (2017-12-20) 28 August 2018 (2018-08-28) 3 years, 100 days
Morrison 28 August 2018 (2018-08-28) 30 March 2021 (2021-03-30)
38 Senator Michaelia Cash Solicitor Curtin University; University of London; University of Western Australia 30 March 2021 (2021-03-30) 23 May 2022 (2022-05-23) 1 year, 54 days
39 Senator Katy Gallagher 5 Labor Albanese n/a Australian National University 23 May 2022 (2022-05-23) 1 June 2022 (2022-06-01) 9 days
n/a Mark Dreyfus KC Barrister University of Melbourne 1 June 2022 (2022-06-01) Incumbent 1 year, 317 days

Notes

1 A member of the Protectionist Party, Higgins served in the Labor ministry of Chris Watson, because Labor had no suitably qualified lawyer in Parliament.
2 Hughes took silk in 1909, and became a King's Counsel.[6]
3 Whitlam served as part of a two-man ministry together with Lance Barnard for fourteen days, until the full ministry was commissioned.
4 Prime Minister Paul Keating's original choice for Attorney-General in 1993 had been Michael Lavarch, but Lavarch's re-election was delayed by the death of an opposing candidate for the seat of Dickson; Duncan Kerr held the portfolio in the interim until Lavarch won the resulting supplementary election. Kerr served as Attorney-General for 26 days. There was no Attorney-General for the eight days between Duffy's commission ending on 24 March 1993 and Kerr's commission commencing on 1 April 1993.
5 Gallagher served as part of an interim five-person ministry for nine days, until the full ministry was commissioned.

List of assistant ministers for the republic

The position is responsible for the Albanese government's policy of establishing a republic and is the first Commonwealth portfolio for republic policy.[7][4]

Order Minister Party Prime Minister Title Term start Term end Term in office
1 Matt Thistlethwaite   Labor Albanese Assistant Minister for the Republic 1 June 2022 (2022-06-01) Incumbent 1 year, 317 days

Attorneys-general of the states and territories

The Australian states each have separate attorneys-general, who are state ministers with similar responsibilities to the federal minister with respect to state law. For attorneys-general of the various states and territories of Australia, see:

See also

Notes

References

  1. ^ "2018 Parliamentary remuneration and business resources: a quick guide". Parliament of Australia. 6 September 2018. Retrieved 15 June 2019.
  2. ^ Worthington, Brett (31 May 2022). "Meet the new cabinet: Who's who in Albanese's new ministry". ABC News. Retrieved 31 May 2022.
  3. ^ Elder, DR; Fowler, PE, eds. (June 2018). "Chapter 2: The Ministry". House of Representatives Practice (7th ed.). Canberra, Australia: Commonwealth of Australia. ISBN 978-1-74366-656-2. Retrieved 19 October 2019.
  4. ^ a b "Ministry List as at 1 June 2022" (PDF). Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Retrieved 4 June 2022.
  5. ^ "Ministries and Cabinets". 43rd Parliamentary Handbook: Historical information on the Australian Parliament. Parliament of Australia. 2010. Archived from the original on 13 August 2014. Retrieved 9 July 2013.
  6. ^ "William Morris Hughes: Before office". Australia's Prime Ministers. National Archives of Australia. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
  7. ^ Crellin, Zac (2 June 2022). "Here's what's on the agenda for Australia's first-ever Assistant Minister for the Republic". The New Daily. Retrieved 4 June 2022.
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Attorney-General of Australia
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