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The Attorney-General is a political and legal officer in New Zealand. The Attorney-General is simultaneously a ministerial position and the chief law officer of the Crown, and has responsibility for supervising New Zealand law and advising the government on legal matters. The Attorney-General serves both a political and apolitical function.[2] The current Attorney-General is David Parker.

Attorney-General of New Zealand
Coat of arms of New Zealand.svg
Flag of New Zealand.svg
David Parker, 2019.jpg
Incumbent
David Parker

since 26 October 2017
Crown Law Office Parliamentary Counsel Office
StyleThe Honourable
Member of
Reports toPrime Minister of New Zealand
AppointerGovernor-General of New Zealand
Term lengthAt Her Majesty's pleasure
Formation7 May 1856
First holderFrederick Whitaker
Salary$288,900[1]
Websitewww.beehive.govt.nz

Responsibilities and powersEdit

The Attorney-General has two main areas of official responsibility. Firstly, the Attorney-General has ministerial jurisdiction over the Crown Law Office, the Parliamentary Counsel Office, and the Serious Fraud Office.[3] Secondly, the Attorney-General is the principal law officer of the Crown, responsible for supervising the state's administration of the law and for providing legal advice to the government.[3] This includes upholding the rule of law[4] and advising on compliance with international obligations.[5] In the latter role (but strictly not in the former), the Attorney-General is assisted by the Solicitor-General, a non-partisan official.[3] This is to reduce the extent to which the Attorney-General's actions on behalf of the state (as opposed to the government) can be influenced by their political allegiance.[6]

A more complete description of the Attorney-General's powers can be found in the ministerial briefings prepared by the Crown Law Office (most recently in 2017), of which the Attorney-General is the responsible Minister.

At present, there is no statutory basis which establishes the office of Attorney-General, although the position is referenced by a number of other legal documents, such as the Constitution Act 1986 which allows the Solicitor-General to exercise the functions of the Attorney-General.[7] The functions of the Attorney-General are also described in the Cabinet Manual.[8]

There is no constitutional duty on the government to follow the advice of the law officers.[9] The Cabinet Manual outlines the process by which the legal advice provided by the Attorney-General (and others) may be disclosed.[10]

The position of Attorney-General is distinct from that of Minister of Justice, although the two posts are sometimes held by the same person, for example, Martyn Finlay who held both positions from 1972 to 1975.

HistoryEdit

Historically, the post could be held either by a politician or by a senior jurist, but today, it is invariably held by a member of Parliament. The Attorney-General attends Cabinet, but the post is not the same as the Minister of Justice. The post of Attorney-General has existed since the separation of New Zealand as a distinct Crown Colony from New South Wales.

By tradition, persons appointed to the position of Attorney-General have been lawyers. Only two former Attorneys-General have not been lawyers, most recently Dr. Michael Cullen who held the post in 2005 and again from 2006. In November 1906, when Albert Pitt died, there were no suitable members of the legal profession in Parliament.[11] Hence Joseph Ward appointed John Findlay to the Legislative Council on 23 November 1906[12] and appointed him Attorney-General and Colonial Secretary on the same day.[13]

The table below is an incomplete listing of New Zealand politicians who have sat in Cabinet as Attorney-General since 1856. It does not show non-political attorneys-general. There were two previous Attorneys-General before responsible government was introduced in New Zealand in 1856: Francis Fisher who held office for less than one year in 1841, and William Swainson who held office until 7 May 1856. Peter Wilkinson was the half-brother of his successor, Jim McLay.

List of Attorneys-GeneralEdit

Key

  Independent   Liberal   Reform   United   Labour   National

No. Name Portrait Term of Office Prime Minister
1 Frederick Whitaker   7 May 1856 20 May 1856 Sewell
2 William Fox   20 May 1856 2 June 1856 Fox
(1) Frederick Whitaker   2 June 1856 12 July 1861 Stafford
(2) William Fox   12 July 1861 2 August 1861 Fox
3 Henry Sewell   2 August 1861 6 August 1862
4 Thomas Gillies   6 August 1862 23 August 1862 Domett
(3) Henry Sewell   23 August 1862 1 January 1863
(1) Frederick Whitaker   1 January 1863 24 November 1864
Whitaker
(3) Henry Sewell   24 November 1864 16 October 1865 Weld
5 James Prendergast   16 October 1865 1 September 1876 Stafford
(1) Frederick Whitaker   1 September 1876 13 October 1877 Atkinson
6 Robert Stout   13 October 1877 8 October 1879 Grey
(1) Frederick Whitaker   21 April 1882 25 September 1883 Whitaker
7 Edward Conolly   25 September 1883 16 August 1884 Atkinson
(6) Robert Stout   16 August 1884 8 October 1887 Stout
(1) Frederick Whitaker   11 October 1887 24 January 1891 Atkinson
8 Patrick Buckley   24 January 1891 20 December 1895 Ballance
Seddon
9 Albert Pitt   22 June 1903 18 November 1906
Hall-Jones
Ward
10 John Findlay   18 November 1906 26 December 1911
- Josiah Hanan
acting
  28 March 1912 10 July 1912 Mackenzie
11 Alexander Herdman   10 July 1912 4 February 1918 Massey
12 Francis Bell   4 February 1918 18 January 1926
Bell
Coates
13 William Downie Stewart Jr.   18 January 1926 24 May 1926
14 Frank Rolleston   24 May 1926 10 December 1928
15 Thomas Sidey   10 December 1928 22 September 1931 Ward
Forbes
(13) William Downie Stewart Jr.   22 September 1931 28 January 1933
16 George Forbes   28 January 1933 6 December 1935
17 Rex Mason   6 December 1935 13 December 1949 Savage
Fraser
18 Clifton Webb   13 December 1949 26 November 1954 Holland
19 Jack Marshall   26 November 1954 12 December 1957
Holyoake
(17) Rex Mason   12 December 1957 12 December 1960 Nash
20 Ralph Hanan   12 December 1960 22 December 1969 Holyoake
(19) Jack Marshall   22 December 1969 2 February 1971
21 Dan Riddiford   2 February 1971 9 February 1972
- Roy Jack
acting
  9 February 1972 8 December 1972 Marshall
22 Martyn Finlay   8 December 1972 12 December 1975 Kirk
Rowling
23 Peter Wilkinson   12 December 1975 13 December 1978 Muldoon
24 Jim McLay   13 December 1978 26 July 1984
25 Geoffrey Palmer   26 July 1984 4 August 1989 Lange
26 David Lange   4 August 1989 2 November 1990 Palmer
Moore
27 Paul East   2 November 1990 5 December 1997 Bolger
28 Doug Graham   5 December 1997 10 December 1999
Shipley
29 Margaret Wilson   10 December 1999 28 February 2005 Clark
30 Michael Cullen   28 February 2005 19 October 2005
31 David Parker   19 October 2005 21 March 2006
(30) Michael Cullen   21 March 2006 19 November 2008
32 Chris Finlayson   19 November 2008 26 October 2017 Key
English
(31) David Parker   26 October 2017 present Ardern

External linksEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ https://www.parliament.nz/media/3151/parliamentary-salaries-and-allowances-determination-2016.pdf
  2. ^ Clayton, CW (1995). Government Lawyers: The Federal Legal Bureaucracy and Presidential Politics. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press. p. 13.
  3. ^ a b c Briefing Paper for the Attorney-General (Crown Law Office, October 2017) at 3.
  4. ^ Cabinet Office, Cabinet Manual 2017, at [4.3].
  5. ^ Cabinet Office Circular “Cabinet Directions for the Conduct of Crown Legal Business 2016” (30 March 2016) CO 16/2 at [9.1.3.2].
  6. ^ Brookfield (1979). "The Attorney-General". New Zealand Law Journal: 336.
  7. ^ Constitution Act 1986, s 9A.
  8. ^ Cabinet Office, Cabinet Manual 2017, [4.2]–[4.5].
  9. ^ McLachlan, Campbell (2014). Foreign Relations Law. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. [4.35].
  10. ^ Cabinet Office, Cabinet Manual 2017, at [4.63–4.72].
  11. ^ Paterson, Donald Edgar (1966), "Findlay, the Hon. Sir John George", An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock, retrieved 10 May 2008
  12. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 153.
  13. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 74.