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:
Achieve a just and secure society through the maintenance and improvement of Australia’s law, justice, security and integrity frameworks
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
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.
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 during 2019–20
Position title / Position held
Date of commencement
Date of cessation
Chris Moraitis PSM
1 July 2019
30 June 2020
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:
alternative dispute resolution
courts and tribunals
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
freedom of information
management of government
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.