Meeting of Attorneys-General communiqué
The Meeting of Attorneys-General (MAG) convened on 12 August 2022 at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Office in Melbourne, Victoria. The meeting was chaired by the Hon Mark Dreyfus QC MP, Commonwealth Attorney‑General. All jurisdictions were represented.
MAG Work Priorities for 2022: Model defamation reform
On 12 August 2022, participants discussed the progress of the Stage 2 Review of the Model Defamation Provisions (MDPs) and acknowledged the significant amount of work that New South Wales and Victoria have undertaken in leading this item.
Part A of the Stage 2 Review addresses the question of internet intermediary liability in defamation for the publication of third-party content. This includes the matters raised in the High Court decision in Fairfax Media Publications Pty Ltd & Ors v Voller  HCA 27.
Part B considers whether absolute privilege should be extended to cover reports of alleged unlawful conduct to police and other entities including statutory investigative bodies and professional disciplinary bodies.
Participants noted that work on the Stage 2 Review is well-advanced and the issues being considered continue to be of significant public interest. It was agreed that the Stage 2 Review of the MDPs should remain a priority area of work in 2022, with the Part A and Part B exposure draft amendments to the MDPs and accompanying papers to be released immediately in August 2022 for public consultation. This will enable consideration and agreement of the final Part A amendments by no later than the end of 2022.
MAG Work Priorities for 2022: Access scheme for digital records after death or incapacity
Participants agreed on a workplan for consideration of a nationally consistent scheme for access to digital records upon death or loss of decision-making capacity, which will include targeted consultation by the end of 2022 on the development of draft proposals, recommendations for MAG consideration and provision of drafting instructions to Parliamentary Counsel's Committee for uniform model legislation.
MAG Work Priorities for 2022: Enduring powers of attorney and National Register
Participants noted that officials are developing proposals for enduring power of attorney (EPOA) law reform and alternative models for a National Register of Enduring Powers of Attorney. Participants agreed to consider these proposals at the next Meeting of Attorneys-General, prior to public consultation.
National principles to address coercive control
Participants agreed to the release of the Consultation Draft of the National Principles to Address Coercive Control. The consultation draft outlines a common understanding of coercive control by Australian and state and territory governments, including on:
- the common features and impacts of coercive control
- the importance of coordinated approaches to respond to coercive control, including identified gaps in community understanding, and
- concerns about the misidentification of victim-survivors as perpetrators of family and domestic violence, particularly First Nations women.
Participants also agreed the revised key milestones for this project. Consultation will commence from September 2022, and officials will provide a progress update by the end of 2022 and seek the Meeting of Attorneys-General approval of the final National Principles in early 2023.
Criminal Justice Responses to Sexual Assault
Participants formally endorsed the five‑year Meeting of Attorneys-General Work Plan to Strengthen Criminal Justice Responses to Sexual Assault 2022-27 (the MAG Work Plan). Under the MAG Work Plan jurisdictions will seek to take collective and individual action to improve the experiences of victim-survivors of sexual assault in the criminal justice system.
Participants noted an update on a national review of sexual assault legislation in Australia. This review will consider definitions in relation to consent, as well as broader definitions relating to sexual assault and child sexual abuse.
Sexual harassment is unacceptable in any context, and all governments acknowledge the important role of the Meetings of Attorneys-General in ensuring Australia's legal system provides a framework to prevent and respond to workplace sexual harassment.
Respect@Work has been a focus of this forum and participants noted jurisdictions' updates in relation to the implementation of the Respect@Work Report, including the Australian Government's commitment to implementing all remaining legislative recommendations, and their consideration of recommendation 26 (regarding alignment of sexual harassment (and sex discrimination) laws, without limiting or reducing protections) and recommendation 39 (regarding protections for victims of sexual harassment as witnesses in civil proceedings).
Participants noted that officials will continue to work together to discuss progress and share analysis, research, findings and experiences to inform jurisdictions consideration of these recommendations.
Participants agreed to report back to MAG before the end of 2022 with a progress update from jurisdictions on the implementation of the Respect@Work Report, including their consideration of recommendations 26 and 39.
Voluntary assisted dying
Participants discussed the interaction between state voluntary assisted dying laws and Commonwealth laws. The Australian Government is closely considering the issue of health practitioners being at risk of prosecution and agreed that this item will be further considered at the next meeting.
Family Court and Domestic and Family Violence
Participants noted recommendation 70 of the Queensland Women's Safety and Justice Taskforce's first report, Hear her voice – Report one – Addressing coercive control and domestic and family violence in Queensland, and the importance of ongoing reforms being progressed through the Family Violence Working Group and the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia to better protect victims of domestic and family violence, including from coercive control.
Minimum age of criminal responsibility
Participants agreed the Age of Criminal Responsibility Working Group would continue to develop a proposal to increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility, paying particular attention to eliminating the overrepresentation of First Nations' children in the criminal justice system.
Participants noted that the ACT and Northern Territory have committed to raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility, and states have supported the development of proposals to raise the age, having regard to any carve outs, timing and discussion of implementation requirements.
Participants noted the Australian Government's commitments in relation to justice reinvestment, which are intended to enable First Nations communities to establish locally tailored initiatives that address the underlying causes of incarceration, including to reduce the contact of First Nations children with the criminal justice system.
Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (OPCAT)
Participants noted the current status of implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) and the upcoming visit to Australia by the United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, and agreed to continue working together on implementation of OPCAT in advance of the 20 January 2023 deadline for implementation.
Priorities for discussion
Participants agreed that improving indigenous justice outcomes will become a standing agenda item.
Participants noted the women's legal centre work under way across jurisdictions.
Participants agreed that the Meeting of Attorneys-General nomenclature will change to the Standing Council of Attorneys-General, and will meet quarterly.