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 for Australia has been the Hon Christian Porter MP, a Liberal Party of Australia member of the Australian House of Representatives for the state of Western Australia.

Attorney-General
Christian Porter Portrait 2015
Incumbent
Christian Porter MP

since 20 December 2017
Attorney-General's Department
Style The Honourable
Appointer Governor-General on the recommendation of the Prime Minister of Australia
Inaugural holder Alfred Deakin
Formation 1 January 1901

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

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:[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 Josiah Symon 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 Hughes2 Labor Fisher Barrister n/a 13 November 1908 2 June 1909 201 days
8 Paddy Glynn KC Commonwealth
Liberal
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
Liberal
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 Littleton Groom 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 John Latham 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 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 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 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 268 days
Scott Morrison 24 August 2018 Incumbent

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.[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

Notes

  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.

References

  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

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