Law, security and justice: domestic focus, global context

chris-moratis  By Chris Moraitis, Secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department

Few areas of the Attorney-General’s Department’s diverse span of work are immune from international developments. Areas of law that were almost exclusively the domain of domestic governments have increasingly taken on international dimensions. Inevitably, our responsibilities for national security and emergency management are directly affected by events overseas.

The Attorney-General’s Department, along with colleagues from across Government, is deeply engaged in the development of Australia’s next Foreign Policy White Paper because of the interlinkages between our domestic responsibilities and international affairs.

In our globally connected world, the development of technology, the portability of information and finance, and the rapid growth in e-commerce requires policy development and operational cooperation in areas of cyber security, privacy law, and cross-border dispute resolution.

The internet and other digital technologies allow old crimes to be committed in new ways – encryption technologies and the ‘dark web’ are utilised to launder money, steal identities and to distribute child exploitation material. Without cooperation from other countries, we cannot respond effectively to transnational crime, extradite offenders or obtain evidence from overseas to investigate or even sometimes prosecute those involved in criminal activity. By working with our regional neighbours to strengthen legal frameworks in areas such as human trafficking, people smuggling and money laundering, we have also improved international crime cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.

Strong, close and enduring relationships with international partners are equally essential to mitigate the threats posed by terrorism and violent extremism. Foreign fighters transiting across the region present challenges for our security and law enforcement agencies that require collaborative regional responses. Our partnerships with key allies to counter terrorism and violent extremism continue to grow in importance, through operational cooperation and by learning from each other’s experiences.

Foreign investment in Australia is a constant, as overseas investors look for new investment opportunities and Australian asset owners seek to free up capital held in critical infrastructure. Australian businesses are also likely to continue to outsource and move functions offshore and take advantage of developments in technology. Therefore, in critical infrastructure policy, we have to manage increased risks to Australia and Australian overseas interests at the same time as encouraging foreign investment.

Increased legal migration can give rise to cross border family disputes, requiring the resolution of conflicts between different countries’ legal systems and the management of obligations for child protection and maintenance. Conflicts between different cultural traditions and human rights may also need resolution. For example, it is against Australian law to force someone to marry, although it may be acceptable in some cultures.

The increasing incidence and severity of natural disasters poses challenges for how best we can support people and communities in Australia and also our region to be more resilient, to lessen the burden of disasters and aid recovery. Building the capacity of countries in our region to manage disasters reduces their reliance on countries such as Australia.

By engaging internationally, the Attorney-General’s Department can fulfil our brief to provide Australians with access to justice and to keep our community safe and secure.


Mr Chris Moraitis PSM is Secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department, a position he has held since September 2014. Before joining the Attorney-General’s Department, Chris was a career officer in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, where he held several executive positions including Deputy Secretary. Chris has served as High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea and was posted to Paris, Madrid and Geneva. Chris was awarded the Public Service Medal in 2014 for outstanding public service to Australia’s international affairs. Chris has Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws degrees from the University of Melbourne and a Masters of International Law from the Australian National University. He was admitted to practice in Victoria as a Barrister and Solicitor in 1988.

Attorney-General’s Department overseas based officers on a recall visit to Canberra. Photo: Attorney-General’s Department 

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