Page 2354 - Week 06 - Thursday, 23 June 2011

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In addition to this, a range of controversial issues have emerged on which Australian solicitors-general have been called to give advice, including for the purposes of national ministerial councils. It is increasingly apparent that the ACT’s position in the national arena would be enhanced by clear recognition of a role of solicitor-general, and accordingly the bill I am presenting here today establishes this position in the territory.

In establishing the new position in the ACT, consideration was given to the nature of the services to be required and the size of our jurisdiction. The nature of the ACT as a territory and its relationship with the commonwealth means that constitutional issues are different but equally significant in this jurisdiction compared to the Australian states. The size of the jurisdiction, however, also means that it is appropriate for the majority of legal issues to be handled on behalf of the territory without the need for two separate full-time, high-ranking legal officials.

On this basis, it was determined that the functions and duties of the two offices of solicitor-general and Chief Solicitor could appropriately be performed by one person. Accordingly, the bill provides that one of the functions of the solicitor-general would be to perform the role of Chief Solicitor as determined by the Attorney-General. The bill also enables the two offices to be filled by separate legal officials if the need arises for this in the future.

The position of solicitor-general must be filled by a person who is, and has been, a legal practitioner for five years or more. The person will be appointed by the executive and cannot be appointed for more than seven years. The conditions of the appointment will be set out in the appointment instrument and this instrument will be notified on the legislation register. Until a determination is made by the Remuneration Tribunal, the remuneration of the position of solicitor-general will be determined by the executive at an appropriate rate.

The solicitor-general’s functions will be to act as counsel, at the request of the Attorney-General, for the Crown in the right of the territory, the territory, or any other entity. The person appointed to the position will exercise other functions as counsel as directed by the Attorney-General, and will exercise any function given to the position under a territory or commonwealth law. As I indicated earlier, the person filling the position of solicitor-general must also exercise the functions of the Chief Solicitor if the Attorney-General so directs.

In addition to establishing the role of solicitor-general, the bill also confers on the Attorney-General the power to issue legal services directions relating to the performance of territory legal work. The directions will provide a framework for the conduct of the ACT’s legal affairs, but leave prime responsibility for the effective and efficient use of legal services with agencies.

The power to issue legal services directions is intended to enable the Attorney-General to protect the legal interests of the ACT in relation to the delivery of legal services. It is a mechanism used successfully in the commonwealth.

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