This website makes available online for the first time a collection of past opinions of Commonwealth Attorneys-General, Solicitors-General and lawyers in the Attorney-General's Department. The opinions from the Attorney-General’s Department were provided as part of the advisings function now carried out primarily by the Australian Government Solicitor.
The period covered is 1901 to 1950 – from Federation and the creation of the Commonwealth on 1 January 1901 to the 5 years following the end of the Second World War.
The opinions include significant advices signed by the Attorneys-General in this period, beginning with Alfred Deakin, the Commonwealth's first Attorney-General from 1901–03 (and second Prime Minister), and ending with John Spicer, Attorney-General from 1949–56. Many of the opinions are signed by Robert Garran, the first Secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department (1901–32) and Commonwealth Solicitor-General (1916–32), his successors George Knowles (1932–46), and Kenneth Bailey (1946–64), a range of other lawyers in the Department, and some prominent private counsel. Apart from their legal value and significance, they throw light on the development of the Australian nation over this period.
The first 3 volumes of opinions published here have also been published in hard-copy printed volumes. The first and second printed volumes published in 1981 and 1988 were selected and edited by staff of the Attorney-General's Department. The third volume published in 2013 was a combined project of the Australian Government Solicitor and the Attorney-General’s Department. The fourth volume, which was not printed, was published in 2015 and was also a combined project of the Australian Government Solicitor and the Attorney-General’s Department.
This online publication has also been a combined project of the Australian Government Solicitor, the Attorney-General’s Department and the Australian Archives.
Please note that this website is still under development – in particular, preparing early biographies and checking the text and formatting of the opinions that were scanned from printed volumes. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you note any errors or have suggestions about improvements.
Printed Volumes and release notes
These selected Legal Opinions were originally published in three hard-back volumes (in 1981, 1988 and 2013 respectively). In 2015 there was a further digital release, nominally the "fourth" volume.The volumes contained forewords and prefaces (and, in the third volume, an introduction) which contained text of significant value to the volumes. These have been digitised and added to the site for reference: