Attorney-General for Australia

The Attorney-General for Australia[note 1] is the First Law Officer of the Crown in right of the Commonwealth of Australia, chief law officer of the Commonwealth of Australia and a minister of the Crown. The Attorney-General is usually a member of the Federal Cabinet, but need not be. Under the Constitution, they are appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of the Prime Minister, and serve at the Governor-General's pleasure. In practice, the Attorney-General is a party politician and their tenure is determined by political factors. By convention, but not constitutional requirement, the Attorney-General is a lawyer by training (either a barrister or solicitor).

Since 20 December 2017, the Attorney-General has been Christian Porter, a Liberal member of the House of Representatives from Western Australia.

Christian Porter Portrait 2015
Christian Porter

since 20 December 2017
Attorney-General's Department
StyleThe Honourable
AppointerGovernor-General on the recommendation of the Prime Minister of Australia
Inaugural holderAlfred Deakin
Formation1 January 1901


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


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. Those objectives are Australian Legal Commissions as legal instrument in Constitutional Powers, and ACLEI, operations Agency.


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:[1]

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 24 September 1903 2 years, 266 days
2 Senator James Drake Deakin Barrister King's College School, London 24 September 1903 27 April 1904 216 days
3 H. B. Higgins QC Protectionist1 Watson Barrister University of Melbourne 27 April 1904 17 August 1904 112 days
4 Senator Sir Josiah Symon, KCMG, QC Free Trade Reid Barrister Free Church Training College 17 August 1904 5 July 1905 322 days
5 Isaac Isaacs QC Protectionist Deakin Barrister University of Melbourne 5 July 1905 12 October 1906 1 year, 99 days
6 Littleton Groom KC Lawyer University of Melbourne 12 October 1906 13 November 1908 2 years, 32 days
7 Billy Hughes, KC2 Labor Fisher Barrister n/a 13 November 1908 2 June 1909 201 days
8 Paddy Glynn, KCMG, KC Commonwealth
Deakin Barrister Trinity College, Dublin 2 June 1909 29 April 1910 331 days
n/a Billy Hughes KC Labor Fisher Barrister n/a 29 April 1910 24 June 1913 3 years, 56 days
9 William Irvine KC Commonwealth
Cook Barrister Trinity College, Dublin; University of Melbourne 24 June 1913 17 September 1914 1 year, 85 days
n/a Billy Hughes KC Labor Fisher Barrister n/a 17 September 1914 27 October 1915 7 years, 95 days
Hughes 27 October 1915 14 November 1916
National Labor 14 November 1916 13 June 1917
Nationalist 13 June 1917 21 December 1921
n/a Sir Littleton Groom, KCMG, KC Lawyer University of Melbourne 21 December 1921 9 February 1923 3 years, 362 days
Bruce 9 February 1923 18 December 1925
10 John Latham KC Barrister University of Melbourne 18 December 1925 22 October 1929 3 years, 308 days
11 Frank Brennan Labor Scullin Barrister University of Melbourne 22 October 1929 6 January 1932 2 years, 76 days
n/a Sir John Latham, GCMG, KC United Australia Lyons Barrister University of Melbourne 6 January 1932 12 October 1934 2 years, 279 days
12 Robert Menzies KC Barrister University of Melbourne 12 October 1934 20 March 1939 4 years, 159 days
n/a Billy Hughes, CH, KC Barrister n/a 20 March 1939 7 April 1939 2 years, 201 days
Page 7 April 1939 26 April 1939
Menzies 26 April 1939 29 August 1941
Fadden 29 August 1941 7 October 1941
13 Dr. H. V. Evatt KC Labor Curtin Barrister, Judge University of Sydney 7 October 1941 6 July 1945 8 years, 73 days
Forde 6 July 1945 13 July 1945
Chifley 13 July 1945 19 December 1949
14 Senator John Spicer KC Liberal Menzies Barrister University of Melbourne 19 December 1949 14 August 1956 6 years, 239 days
15 Senator Neil O'Sullivan Solicitor 15 August 1956 12 October 1958 2 years, 58 days
16 Sir Garfield Barwick QC Barrister University of Sydney 12 October 1958 4 March 1964 5 years, 144 days
17 Billy Snedden QC Barrister University of Western Australia 4 March 1964 26 January 1966 2 years, 285 days
Holt 26 January 1966 14 December 1966
18 Nigel Bowen QC Barrister University of Sydney 14 December 1966 19 December 1967 2 years, 333 days
McEwen 19 December 1967 10 January 1968
Gorton 10 January 1968 12 November 1969
19 Tom Hughes QC Barrister University of Sydney 12 November 1969 10 March 1971 1 year, 130 days
McMahon 10 March 1971 22 March 1971
n/a Nigel Bowen Barrister University of Sydney 22 March 1971 2 August 1971 133 days
20 Senator Ivor Greenwood QC Barrister University of Melbourne 2 August 1971 5 December 1972 1 year, 125 days
21 Gough Whitlam QC3 Labor Whitlam Barrister University of Sydney 5 December 1972 19 December 1972 14 days
22 Senator Lionel Murphy QC Barrister University of Sydney 19 December 1972 10 February 1975 2 years, 53 days
23 Kep Enderby QC Barrister University of Sydney
University of London
10 February 1975 11 November 1975 274 days
n/a Senator Ivor Greenwood QC Liberal Fraser Barrister University of Melbourne 11 November 1975 22 December 1975 41 days
24 Bob Ellicott QC Barrister University of Sydney 22 December 1975 6 September 1977 1 year, 258 days
25 Senator Peter Durack QC Barrister University of Western Australia
Lincoln College, Oxford
6 September 1977 11 March 1983 5 years, 186 days
26 Senator Gareth Evans QC Labor Hawke Barrister University of Melbourne
Magdalen College, Oxford
11 March 1983 13 December 1984 1 year, 277 days
27 Lionel Bowen Solicitor University of Sydney 13 December 1984 4 April 1990 5 years, 112 days
28 Michael Duffy, ONZ Solicitor University of Melbourne 4 April 1990 27 December 1991 2 years, 354 days
Keating 27 December 1991 24 March 1993
29 Duncan Kerr4 Labor Keating Barrister University of Tasmania 1 April 1993 27 April 1993 26 days
30 Michael Lavarch Solicitor Queensland University of Technology 27 April 1993 11 March 1996 2 years, 319 days
31 Daryl Williams, AM, QC Liberal Howard Barrister University of Western Australia
Wadham College, Oxford
11 March 1996 7 October 2003 7 years, 210 days
32 Philip Ruddock Solicitor University of Sydney 7 October 2003 3 December 2007 4 years, 57 days
33 Robert McClelland Labor Rudd Solicitor University of New South Wales
University of Sydney
3 December 2007 24 June 2010 4 years, 11 days
Gillard 24 June 2010 14 December 2011
34 Nicola Roxon Solicitor University of Melbourne 14 December 2011 2 February 2013 1 year, 50 days
35 Mark Dreyfus QC Barrister University of Melbourne 2 February 2013 26 June 2013 228 days
Rudd 26 June 2013 18 September 2013
36 Senator George Brandis QC   Liberal National Abbott Barrister University of Queensland; Magdalen College, Oxford 18 September 2013 15 September 2015 4 years, 93 days
Turnbull 15 September 2015 20 December 2017
37 Christian Porter Liberal Lawyer University of Western Australia, London School of Economics 20 December 2017 24 August 2018 1 year, 121 days
Morrison 24 August 2018 Incumbent


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.[2]
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.

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


  1. ^ The title is officially "Attorney-General". For the purposes of distinguishing the office from other Attorneys-General, and in accordance with usual practice in the United Kingdom and other common law jurisdictions, the Australian Attorney-General currently refers to themselves as the "Attorney-General for Australia" or the "Commonwealth Attorney-General": see Attorney-General website. Historically, "Attorney-General of Australia" was also used.


  1. ^ "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.
  2. ^ "William Morris Hughes: Before office". Australia's Prime Ministers. National Archives of Australia. Retrieved 15 July 2013.

External links

April 1

April 1 is the 91st day of the year (92nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. 274 days remain until the end of the year.

It is not only the first day of the second quarter of the year, but it is also the midway point of the first half of the year.

Attorney-General's Department (Australia)

The Attorney-General's Department is a department of the federal government of Australia responsible for law and justice.

The head of the department is the Secretary of the Attorney-General's Department, currently Chris Moraitis , who reports to the Attorney-General for Australia, currently The Hon. Christian Porter MP.

Attorney general

In most common law jurisdictions, the attorney general or attorney-general (sometimes abbreviated AG) is the main legal advisor to the government. The plural is attorneys general (traditional) or attorney generals.In some jurisdictions, attorneys general also have executive responsibility for law enforcement, prosecutions or even responsibility for legal affairs generally. In practice, the extent to which the attorney general personally provides legal advice to the government varies between jurisdictions, and even between individual office-holders within the same jurisdiction, often depending on the level and nature of the office-holder's prior legal experience.

Where the attorney general has ministerial responsibility for legal affairs in general (as is the case, for example, with the United States Attorney General or the Attorney-General for Australia, and the respective attorneys general of the states in each country), the ministerial portfolio is largely equivalent to that of a Minister of Justice in some other countries.

The term was originally used to refer to any person who holds a general power of attorney to represent a principal in all matters. In the common law tradition, anyone who represents the state, especially in criminal prosecutions, is such an attorney. Although a government may designate some official as the permanent attorney general, anyone who came to represent the state in the same way could, in the past, be referred to as such, even if only for a particular case. Today, however, in most jurisdictions, the term is largely reserved as a title of the permanently appointed attorney general of the state, sovereign or other member of the royal family.

Civil law jurisdictions have similar offices, which may be variously called "public prosecutor general", "procurators", "advocates general", "public attorneys", and other titles. Many of these offices also use "attorney general" or "attorney-general" as the English translation of the title, although because of different historical provenance, the nature of such offices is usually different from that of attorneys-general in common law jurisdictions.

Australia–South Africa relations

Australia–South Africa relations are foreign relations between Australia and South Africa. Australia has a High Commission in Pretoria. South Africa has a High Commission in Canberra. Both countries are former British colonies in the southern Hemisphere, share similar cultures in terms of sports and language, and are members of the Commonwealth of Nations.

It is estimated that as of 2010 around 155,690 South Africans reside in Australia.

Christian Porter

Charles Christian Porter (born 11 July 1970) is an Australian politician and lawyer who is the current Attorney-General of Australia, in office since 20 December 2017. He was elected as the Liberal Party member for the federal Division of Pearce at the 2013 federal election.

From Perth, Porter attended Hale School, the University of Western Australia and later the London School of Economics, and practised law at Clayton Utz and taught law at the University of Western Australia before his election to parliament. He is the son of the 1956 Olympic silver medalist, Charles "Chilla" Porter, and the grandson of Queensland Liberal political, Charles Porter, who was a member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly from 1966 to 1980.Before his election to the federal parliament, Porter had served in the Parliament of Western Australia. He first entered the Legislative Assembly after winning the seat of Murdoch in a 2008 by-election following the death of the sitting member, Trevor Sprigg, and he was subsequently elected to the new seat of Bateman at the 2008 general election. After the Liberals formed government, Porter was appointed Attorney-General in the Barnett ministry. In December 2010, he was also appointed Treasurer, and held both portfolios until June 2012, when he resigned from the ministry to contest the 2013 federal election.

Prior to assuming his current position, Porter was Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister in the Abbott Government from December 2014 to September 2015, and then Minister for Social Services in the Turnbull Government from September 2015 to December 2017.

Council for the Order of Australia

The Council for the Order of Australia is the body responsible for deciding on new appointments within the Order of Australia. It was established by Letters Patent issued by Queen Elizabeth II on 14 February 1975 and as amended subsequently.

David Symon

David Symon (12 March 1859 – 21 March 1924) was a member of the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia from 1890 to 1892, representing the seat of South Fremantle. He was born in Scotland, lived in Australia from 1881 to 1892, and then spent the rest of his life in England.

Symon was born in Stirling, Scotland, to Elizabeth (née Sutherland) and James Symon. His brother, Sir Josiah Symon, was the fourth Attorney-General for Australia. Symon arrived in the Colony of Western Australia in 1881, settling in Fremantle. He initially worked for Harrold Brothers, but later had his own firm, Symon, Hammond, & Hubble. One of his partners was George Hubble, who was also a future MP. At the 1890 general election in Western Australia, the first held for the new Legislative Assembly, Symon was elected to the seat of South Fremantle, unexpectedly defeating a former mayor of Fremantle, Daniel Congdon. However, his time in parliament was short-lived, as in September 1892 he resigned his seat and left for England. Symon took up residence in Chiswick, London, and had a business as a general merchant based in the City of London. He died there in March 1924, aged 65.

December 31

December 31 is the 365th day of the year (366th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. It is known by a collection of names including: Saint Sylvester's Day, New Year's Eve or Old Years Day/Night, as the following day is New Year's Day. It is the last day of the year. The following day is January 1 of the following year.

George Brandis

George Henry Brandis (born 22 June 1957) is an Australian diplomat and former politician who has been the Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom since May 2018. He previously served as a Senator for Queensland between 2000 and 2018, representing the Liberal Party, and was a minister in the Howard, Abbott, and Turnbull Governments.

Brandis studied law at the University of Queensland and Magdalen College, Oxford. Before entering politics he practised as a barrister. Brandis was appointed to the Senate in 2000 to fill the casual vacancy caused by the resignation of Warwick Parer. He served as Minister for the Arts and Sport for the last year of the Howard Government in 2007. When the Coalition returned to power in 2013, Brandis was made Attorney-General and Minister for the Arts. He relinquished the latter portfolio in 2015, when Malcolm Turnbull became prime minister, but was instead made Leader of the Government in the Senate. Brandis announced his retirement from politics in December 2017, with effect from February 2018. He replaced Alexander Downer as High Commissioner to the United Kingdom in May 2018.

January 8

January 8 is the eighth day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. 357 days remain until the end of the year (358 in leap years).

June 25

June 25 is the 176th day of the year (177th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. 189 days remain until the end of the year.

June 27

June 27 is the 178th day of the year (179th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. 187 days remain until the end of the year.

Michael Lavarch

Michael Hugh Lavarch AO (born 8 June 1961) is an Australian lawyer, educator and former politician. He was the Attorney-General for Australia between 1993 and 1996, and since 2004 has been dean and professor of law at Queensland University of Technology (QUT), his alma mater.

Military Court of Australia

The Military Court of Australia was a proposed court of military justice for the Australian Defence Force. It would have replaced the previous Australian Military Court which was deemed unconstitutional by the High Court of Australia with legal grounding under Chapter 3 of the Australian Constitution. The structure of the court was drafted by the Australian Department of Defence and Attorney-General's Department and was introduced as a legislative bill to Parliament in 2012. The bill lapsed with the prorogation of Parliament for the 2013 Australian federal election and has not been reintroduced. In the absence of a military court, the current military justice system involves the use of courts martial and "Defence Force Magistrate" trials.

Philip Ruddock

Philip Maxwell Ruddock (born 12 March 1943 in Canberra) is an Australian politician who is currently mayor of Hornsby Shire. He previously was a Liberal member of the House of Representatives from 1973 to 2016. First elected in a 1973 by-election, by the time of his retirement he was the last parliamentary survivor of the Whitlam and Fraser Governments. He was both the Father of the House and the Father of the Parliament from 1998 to his retirement. He is the second longest-serving parliamentarian in the history of the Australian Parliament (only Billy Hughes served longer). Ruddock served continuously in federal cabinet during the Howard Government, as Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs from 1996 to 2003, and then Attorney-General from 2003 to 2007. He is also the Vice Chair of the Global Panel Foundation Australasia - with Sir Donald Charles McKinnon as Chair.

Secretary of the Department of Health and Community Services v JWB

Secretary of the Department of Health and Community Services v JWB and SMB, commonly known as Marion's Case, is a leading decision of the High Court of Australia, concerning whether a child has the capacity to make decisions for themselves, and when this is not possible, who may make decisions for them regarding major medical procedures. It largely adopts the views in Gillick v West Norfolk Area Health Authority, a decision of the House of Lords in England and Wales.

Solicitor-General of Australia

The Solicitor-General of Australia is the country's second highest-ranking law officer, after the Attorney-General for Australia. The position is often known as the Commonwealth Solicitor-General in order to distinguish it from the state solicitors-general. The current officeholder is Stephen Donaghue, who took office on 16 January 2017.

The Commonwealth Solicitor-General gives the Australian federal government legal advice and appears in court to represent the Commonwealth's interest in important legal proceedings, particularly in the High Court. Unlike the attorney-general, the solicitor-general is not a member of parliament.

Virginia Bell

Virginia Margaret Bell (born 7 March 1951) is the senior puisne Justice of the High Court of Australia, the highest court in the Australian court hierarchy. She was sworn in on 3 February 2009.

Westbrook, Queensland

Westbrook is a town and locality in Toowoomba Region, Queensland, Australia. In the 2016 census, the town recorded a population of 3,885.

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