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A-G's external legal spend revealed
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A-G's external legal spend revealed

External lawyers have been paid many million by the Attorney General's Department in the past year, a new report reveals.

EXTERNAL lawyers have been paid $9.39 million by the Attorney General's Department in the past year, a new report reveals.

The Attorney General Department yesterday released its annual report for the 2008-09 financial year, including the details of its legal services expenditure. 

Total spend for the Department reached $9.39 million, up from last year's $9.21 million. Of that, $8.57 million was spent on 50 different external counsel. 

Of those counsel briefed, 33 were male and 17 were female. 

The Department's internal expenditure was a more modest $757,493, compared to last year's $640,523.

Blake Dawson, one of two key legal services providers for the Department, saw its income drop in the past financial year. It received just $139,840 from the Department in the 2008-09 year, compared with $344,396 the year before. 

Australian Government Solicitor, however, saw a small increase. It reaped $6.9 million in the past year, compared to $6.8 million the year before. 

This news comes as it was revealed in the Senate Estimates Hearing this week that lawyers have absorbed $555 million in legal fees from the government in the last financial year. 

The revelations were made in Senate Estimates hearings this week, when the details of the federal Government's legal expenditure was realised. 

“The Attorney-General’s Department has this week confirmed that in the 2008-09 financial year, the Rudd Labor Government spent $555 million on lawyers,” according to Coalition Scrutiny of Government spokesperson, Senator Guy Barnett.

Almost $308 million was spent on external lawyers and $247 million on in-house legal advice.

“Among the biggest spending agencies were the Australian Tax Office ($75.6 million), the Australian Securities and Investments Commission ($70.8 million), the Department of Defence ($61.2 million) and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship ($38.6 million)," Barnett said. 

This is the second year in a row the Labor Government has topped the $500 million mark in spending on lawyers, Barnett said. 

Attorney General Robert McClelland has previously said: "[I]t is clear we need to do more to control the legal expenses of commonwealth agencies."

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