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ANAO report shows Labor's legal expenditure claims do not stack up.



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ATTORNEY -GENERAL THE HON PHILIP RUDDOCK MP

NEWS RELEASE

Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600 • Tel ephone (02) 6277 7300 • Fax (02) 6273 4102 www.law.gov.au/ag

20 June 2005 112 /2005

ANAO REPORT SHOWS LA BOR’S LEGAL EXPENDIT URE CLAIMS DO NOT STACK UP

A report tabled today on legal services debunks exaggerated claims of a ‘blow -out’ in government legal expenditure, Attorney -General Philip Ruddock has said.

Mr Ru ddock noted the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) report showed only a modest increase in expenditure and found most agencies had in place satisfactory management practices for internal and external legal services.

He said the report explained why d emand for legal services had increased.

“If you want to ensure our defence personnel serving overseas comply with international law; Australians who do not pay their tax will be brought to justice; claims against HIH are properly investigated; construction workers can do their jobs free of intimidation and our migration programme retains public confidence, then you have to acknowledge these important activities come at a cost ,” he said.

“The Government is the same as any other individual or business in that at times it will need legal advice and it depends on the level of activity in which it is engaged as to how much advice is needed .”

Mr Ruddock said the report’s findings made a mockery of the Labor Party’ s election promise to deliver “tens of millions of dollars” in savings by shifting legal expenditure in -house.

The report noted while there had been some growth in external legal spend, the growth in in -house legal spend also has been significant [as indicated by figures 2.1 and 2.3 pp 33 -36]

“This expose s Labor ’s claims as a populist stunt, ” Mr Ruddock said. “It highlights again why Labor could never be trusted to run a n $ 800 billion economy.”

He said the report’s findings vindicated the Government’s decision to decentralise legal services by confirming age ncies were best positioned to allocate resources to legal services .

While scope existed for some agencies to improve system s for monitoring and reviewing their legal spend, the report also identified recent efforts by the Attorney -General’s Department to enhance awareness of the legal services purchasing environment . F or example, through the establishment of a forum for Australian

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Government agencies to meet, discuss and share best practice in legal services purchasing and the handling of legal matters.

Mr Ruddock said the Government remained committed to increased transparency on the issue of legal expenditure and would carefully consider the report recommendations.

“My Department looks forward to working with the ANAO and other agencies to develop clear g uidelines about recording and reporting legal services expenditure,” he said.

“We will also be working with agencies to increase awareness of and compliance with the Legal Services Directions, which regulate how the Australian Government conducts itself in litigation.”

Media Contact: Charlie McKillop (02) 6277 7300/ 0419 278 715