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About the department

This annual report is for the 2019–20 financial year, based on the structure and activities of the Attorney-General’s Department as at 30 June 2020.

As outlined in the Corporate Plan 2019–23, we have two purposes:

  1. Achieve a just and secure society through the maintenance and improvement of Australia’s law, justice, security and integrity frameworks
  2. Facilitate jobs growth through policies and programs that promote fair, productive and safe workplaces

Roles and functions

We play a central role in ensuring Australia is a prosperous, fair and cohesive nation. We provide the best available legal and policy advice and evidence to the Attorney-General in his role as First Law Officer. We are adviser to the government on many issues including constitutional and international law matters, industrial relations, workplace health and safety, institutional integrity, fraud and anti-corruption, the family law system and people’s rights. We develop polices and administer programs that support safety and flexibility in workplaces while maintaining clear and enforceable minimum national employment standards.

We represent Australia in national and international matters and fora on law and justice and labour issues and help to uphold Australia’s place as a regional partner and leader.

Outcomes and programs

In 2019–20, we administered two outcomes, which mirror our purposes, across ten programs, shown in the following table.

Outcomes and programs during 2019–20



Outcome 1: A just and secure society through the maintenance and improvement of Australia’s law, justice, security and integrity frameworks.

Program 1.1 Operating Expenses - Civil Justice and Legal Services

Program 1.2 Operating Expenses - National Security and Criminal Justice

Program 1.3 Australian Government Solicitor

Program 1.4 Justice Services

Program 1.5 Family Relationships

Program 1.6 Indigenous Legal and Native Title Assistance

Program 1.7 Royal Commissions

Outcome 2: Facilitate jobs growth through policies and programs that promote fair, productive and safe workplaces.

Program 2.1 Operating Expenses - Industrial Relations

Program 2.2 Workplace Support

Program 2.3 Workers’ Compensation Payments


Program 1.5 – Family Relationships

Under this program, grants are provided to not-for-profit organisations that deliver family law services. All funds to those organisations are delivered to grant recipients via the Community Grants Hub. The Hub is a whole-of-government initiative administered by the Department of Social Services to streamline grants processes across government. Program 1.5 is linked to the Department of Social Services’ Program 2.1, as outlined in the 2019–20 Attorney-General’s Portfolio Budget Statements at page 23. All policy work related to Program 1.5 is funded under Program 1.1.

Program 2.3 – Workers Compensation Payments

This program is managed by Comcare. Comcare reports against this program and associated performance measures in the Comcare annual report (www.comcare.gov.au/about/governance/annual-report).


As at 30 June 2020, the operational groups that carry out the department’s work are:

  • Australian Government Solicitor
  • Legal Services and Families
  • Integrity and International
  • Industrial Relations
  • Enabling Services.

Attorney-General's Department organisational structure as at 30 June 2020 Visual diagram of the department’s organisation structure headed by the Secretary, Chris Moraitis, that shows the delivery groups for Outcome 1 being the Australian Government Solicitor, Legal and Services Group and the Integrity and International Group. The delivery group for Outcome 2 is the Industrial Relations Group. The department’s corporate functions are carried out by the Enabling Group.

Australian Government Solicitor Group

Through the Australian Government Solicitor we provide legal services to the Australian Government, including legal advice and representation. AGS is structured into three groups that work together on complex matters that require expertise across several areas of law.

The Office of General Counsel provides legal advice and assistance across all government activities including in the areas of constitutional and public law, national security law, statutory interpretation and the development, implementation and administration of legislation. The office also acts for the Australian Government in constitutional litigation and coordinates the conduct of cases involving constitutional issues.

The Dispute Resolution practice group provides specialist expertise in resolving and managing disputes across many areas of law. It acts for regulatory agencies in enforcing the law, protects sensitive information from disclosure, defends government decisions and responds to claims made against the Australian Government. It is often involved in the largest and most sensitive matters affecting the Australian Government.

The Commercial practice group works with a wide range of Australian Government agencies across all areas of commercial law to develop innovative solutions to their legal issues and to implement commercially and legally robust approaches to some of the largest projects in which the Australian Government is involved.

Legal Services and Families Group

Through the Legal Services and Families Group we support the Attorney‑General as the First Law Officer, including by providing high‑quality legal services and legal services infrastructure to the Commonwealth.

The Families and Legal System Division assists to maintain an efficient and effective civil justice system. Our work strengthens cooperation and advances law and justice issues in the fields of family law, family safety, courts and tribunals as well as aspects of the commercial law system including bankruptcy, and private and international laws.

The Legal Services Policy Division supports engagement in legal issues through administering the Legal Services Directions, providing constitutional policy advice, providing internal legal advice and supporting Australian Government participation in royal commissions. The division contributes to an effective justice system through legal assistance policy and funding to organisations and individuals. The division is also responsible for native title policy advice and participation in resolution of claims.

Integrity and International Group

Through the Integrity and International Group we support the Attorney-General’s international, national security, criminal justice and integrity functions and responsibilities.

The Integrity and Security Division is responsible for whole-of-government integrity policy including fraud and anti-corruption, protective security, the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme and the Lobbyist Code of Conduct and Register. We are responsible for administrative law and regulatory powers as well as laws and policy concerning human rights, privacy, freedom of information, archives and whistleblowing in the public sector.

The International Division is responsible for the provision of international law advice and assists with domestic litigation that raises matters of international law. The division supports the Attorney-General and the Secretary in decision-making concerning extradition, mutual assistance, Commonwealth parole and transfer of prisoner casework. The division also administers the aid-funded Pacific Law and Justice Program.

Industrial Relations Group

Through the Industrial Relations Group we provide advice on workplace relations policy and manage the Commonwealth work health and safety and workers’ compensation frameworks. We support the passage of significant legislation and the Australian Government’s engagement with domestic and international stakeholders to develop and progress workplace relations and work health and safety reforms.

The Employee Entitlement Safeguards and Policy Division administers the Fair Entitlements Guarantee Program and the Fair Entitlements Guarantee Recovery Program. The division also provides policy advice on workplace compliance and enforcement, including measures to prevent underpayment of wages, establishing a national labour hire scheme and implementing the government’s response to the Migrant Workers’ Taskforce report.

The Safety and Industry Policy Division provides policy advice on work health and safety and workers compensation in the Commonwealth jurisdiction. The division delivers the legislative functions of the Office of the Federal Safety Commissioner by promoting work health safety in the construction industry and implementing the Work Health and Safety Accreditation Scheme. The division engages with companies, unions and other industry stakeholders to inform policy development and improvements to the industrial relations system.

The Industrial Relations Legal Division provides legal and legal policy advice on industrial relations, work health and safety and workers’ compensation to policy teams, portfolio agencies and to the Minister for Industrial Relations. The division develops and supports the passage and implementation of legislation and regulatory instruments and facilitates the making of industrial relations related portfolio appointments. The division also advises on industrial relations related matters, including ministerial interventions, before the Fair Work Commission as well as other tribunals and courts.

The Employment Conditions Division provides policy advice to the Australian Government on the operation of the Fair Work Act 2009 including modern awards, National Employment Standards, general protections and gender equity matters. The division provides policy advice on the legislative framework for the Coal Mining Industry (Long Service Leave Funding) Corporation and leads the government’s participation in the Fair Work Commission’s Annual Wage Review. The division also represents government priorities at the International Labour Organization and provides policy advice to government.

The Industrial Relations Secretariat Division was established to coordinate and support an industrial relations reform consultation process between government, employers and unions. The Secretariat works collaboratively with the department and the portfolio agencies to provide policy, legal and administrative support to progress reform options. The outcomes from consultation form part of the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Enabling Services Group

The Enabling Services Group provides whole-of-department corporate services and strategic advice. These services include human resources, financial services, information technology development and support, governance, freedom of information and privacy management, ministerial support, cabinet and legislation management, media and communications, procurement and property services.

The group also provides corporate services to some portfolio agencies, including the Office of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor and the Australian Law Reform Commission.

Royal commissions

Under the Administrative Arrangements Order, the department is responsible for providing administrative support to royal commissions, which currently include the:

  • Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements
  • Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability
  • Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

Accountable Authority

Accountable Authority during 2019–20


Position title / Position held

Date of commencement

Date of cessation

Chris Moraitis PSM


1 July 2019

30 June 2020

Ministerial responsibilities

As at 30 June 2020, the department’s minister was the Hon Christian Porter MP, Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations. The portfolio areas of responsibilities include:

  • law and justice including:
    • administrative law
    • alternative dispute resolution
    • bankruptcy
    • constitutional law
    • courts and tribunals
    • human rights
    • international law
    • law reform
    • legal assistance
    • legislative drafting
    • marriage and family law
    • personal property securities
  • legal services to the Commonwealth
  • administration of criminal justice:
    • criminal law legislation
    • matters relating to prosecution
    • sentencing and management of federal offenders, international crime cooperation, including extradition and mutual assistance in criminal matters
  • protective security policy
  • administrative support for royal commissions and certain other inquiries
  • privacy
  • freedom of information
  • management of government
  • native title
  • fraud and anti-corruption policy
  • whole-of-government integrity policy and activities
  • work health and safety, rehabilitation and compensation
  • workplace relations policy development, advocacy and implementation
  • promotion of flexible workplace relations policies and practices, including workplace productivity.

For more information, visit the minister’s website.