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Law Officers Amendment Bill 1997
Date Introduced: 3 December 1997
House: House of Representatives
Commencement: On Royal Assent
The Bill amends
the Law Officers Act 1964 (Cth) to vary the terms and
conditions of service for those holding the office of
Solicitor-General. It provides that after 31 December 1997 the
terms and conditions of the office of Solicitor-General will be
similar to those of senior members of the Australian Public
Service. The Bill provides for entitlements to a judge's pension
and payment in lieu of long leave to no longer apply to the office
of Solicitor-General after 31 December 1997. It also creates a
mechanism for calculating the salary rate applicable to a person
holding the office of Solicitor-General on 31 December 1997,
providing for the calculation of benefits that will be payable to
the current Solicitor-General.
The position of Solicitor-General is
currently held by Dr Gavan Griffith AO QC whose term in office
expires on 31 December 1997.
The statutory role of the position has
previously been reviewed twice by legislation. In 1916 Sir Robert
Garran, then Secretary of the Department of Attorney-General, was
appointed Solicitor-General by the Governor-General with certain
powers conferred under statutory regulation.
The Solicitor-General Act 1916 (Cth)
provided for the delegation of certain other powers, additional to
those existing under regulation, to be conferred on the position of
Solicitor-General. The legislation, which was intended to delegate
administrative and statutory duties to reduce the workload of the
Attorney-General, was not uncontroversial. Solicitors-General at
the time were in some states Cabinet Ministers and it was suggested
that the powers under consideration were political powers.
The Law Officers Act 1964 (Cth)
repealed the Solicitor-General Act 1916. The position of
Solicitor-General was maintained but as an additional office,
providing for the Solicitor-General as second law officer of the
Commonwealth, to fulfil the functions of counsel for the Crown with
entitlements to practice as a barrister. The government of the day
stated that the separation of the positions would allow the
Solicitor-General, without the departmental and administrative
responsibilities attached to the office of head of the
Attorney-General's Department, but with a similar relationship as
departmental head to the Attorney-General, to provide the function
of counsel for the Crown.
The Act provided for a salary equivalent to
those of permanent heads of the Australian Public Service, and
pension rights equivalent to those of judges under the Judges'
Pensions Act 1968 (Cth). It provided for financial
compensation to holders of the office to cover private practice
re-establishment costs in situations where eligibility for a
pension did not yet exist, should reappointment not occur.
The current role of the Solicitor-General as set
out under the Law Officers Act 1964 includes acting as
counsel for the Commonwealth, giving opinions on questions of law
to the Attorney-General and carrying out such other functions,
ordinarily performed by counsel, as requested by the
Attorney-General. The position is not part of the
This Bill removes current entitlements relating
to pension rights and certain other financial compensatory benefits
of the position for future appointees to the office.
Schedule 1 - Amendments
Pension of Solicitor-General
Item 1 inserts a new subsection
16(1AA). The new section provides for section 16 to no longer apply
to the office of Solicitor-General after 31 December 1997 removing
the application of the Judges' Pensions Act 1968
Item 2 inserts a new subsection
16(11A). The new subsection provides for a meaning of 'appropriate
current salary' and calculation mechanism to be applied to the
salary rate payable to the position of Solicitor-General on 31
December 1997, the expiry date of the present appointment.
Item 3 repeals the definition
of 'appropriate current salary' provided for in existing subsection
Payment to Solicitor-General in lieu of long
Item 4 inserts a new subsection
16A(1AA) providing for existing section 16A to not apply to the
person occupying the office of Solicitor-General after 31 December
1997. The new subsection removes a payment on death or retirement
after ten years of service, in lieu of unused long leave, to the
holder of the office of Solicitor-General.
The role of Solicitor-General has changed over
time. This Bill does not introduce further changes to the nature of
the office but to the terms and conditions attaching to it.
The Government states that the compensatory
benefits relating to pension and long leave entitlements provided
for in the Law Officers Act 1964 are 'not appropriate,'
that 'the terms and conditions of service for the new
Solicitor-General should be similar to those of a senior member of
the Australian Public Service' and additionally that the changes
will provide some savings. Entitlements of the current
Solicitor-General, as accrued, are preserved.
Section 6(3) of the Law Officers Act
1964 provides that the terms and conditions attached to the
office of Solicitor-General may be determined by the
Governor-General. Whilst it is proposed that holders of the office
after 31 December 1997 will receive superannuation and leave
entitlements similar to those applying to senior members of the
Australian Public Service, the Bill does not address these
proposals in detail.
- 'Judicial Notice', Commonwealth Government Gazette, 9
September 1916: 2561.
- Prime Minister and Attorney-General, Hon W Hughes, MP,
'Solicitor-General Bill 1916', House of Representatives,
Parliamentary Debates, 27 September 1916: 8996.
- See 'Solicitor-General Bill 1916', Senate, Parliamentary
Debates, 28 September, 1916: 9043-4.
- Attorney-General, Hon B Sneddon, MP, 'Law Officers Bill 1964',
House of Representatives, Parliamentary Debates, 22
October 1964: 2219.
- Commonwealth Department of Attorney-General. Annual Report
- Attorney-General, D Williams MP. 'Law Officers Amendment Bill
1997', Second Reading Speech, House of Representatives,
Parliamentary Debates, 3 December 1997: 11467.
- 'Law Officers Amendment Bill 1997', Explanatory
18 December 1997
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