Position Vacant

Attorney-General of the Commonwealth of Australia

Salary: $200,000 plus perks etc

Background

The position of Attorney-General of the Commonwealth of Australia is one of the most important in government. The holder is Australia’s first law officer and is responsible for administering the Commonwealth legal system. Some previous holders of this Office have been landmark reformers who have implemented changes in Australia’s laws to ensure they are concomitant with the values of a civilised and progressive society. For example, the Attorneys-General on the governments of Gough Whitlam (1972-1975) and Malcolm Fraser (1975-1983) established the Family Law Act, the Trade Practices Act, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission, the Ombudsman, and Aboriginal Land Rights legislation. It was common practice for Attorneys-General, up until 1996, to defend the judiciary against ill-informed rants of conservative shock jocks and commentators.

However in the past eleven years the nature of the Office has changed considerably. Since 1996, with the election of the Howard government, the Office has focused upon drafting laws to prevent asylum seekers and refugees from appealing to the Federal Court against decisions made by Government which adversely affect them. The Office is also responsible for ensuring that the High Court is heavily weighted towards judicial conservatives. Other features of the role of the Office today include emasculation of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission, playing a key role in devising strategies to reject any calls for Australia to join the rest of the common law world by adopting a human rights charter; drafting and enforcing anti-terror laws which are designed to deprive the accused of fundamental and traditional rights, such as timely access to a lawyer; commenting unfavourably on persons accused of terrorist offences while the matter is still under investigation (eg: the Haneef case); assisting the Prime Minister in ensuring that Aboriginal Australians are deprived of the right to communal ownership of land and refusing to apologise or compensate the thousands of Aboriginal people stolen from their famlies (the “stolen generation”)

It is important that the Office Holder uphold the views of The Australian newspaper writers Dennis Shanahan, Paul Kelly and Janet Albrechtsen, who all oppose the traditional notion of a judiciary which is a bulwark against the excesses of the Executive.

The Position in the Future

The likely new Australian Prime Minister, Mr Kevin Rudd is seeking to appoint someone to the Office of Attorney-General in the next seven days. Applicants should note that there is unlikely to be any change to way in which the Office has operated since 1996. In particular, applicants should note that Mr Rudd supports the policies of his predecessor Mr John Howard in key areas such as anti-terror laws, ensuring asylum seekers have few if any rights, refusing to commit to a Human Rights Charter, and depriving Aboriginal people of their traditional land rights. He also supports The Australian’s “we hate activist judges” campaign.

Applications for the position are open from 25 November, 2007.

Peter Fray

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