The Federal Opposition has accused the Rudd Government of spending a record amount on legal fees, with the Attorney-General counter claiming that the Howard Government "massively" under reported its legal expenditure.
The Government spent a total of $555 million in legal fees in the 2008-09 financial year, leading Liberal Senator Guy Barnett to claim the Government had broken its promise to reduce legal spending - as the previous Howard government had only spent $408 million on legal fees in 2006-07, the last full financial year it was in office.
Barnett also accused the Attorney-General's Department of having no idea of how much it will spend on legal fees in the current financial year.
"This is yet another case of the Labor Government losing control of spending," Barnett said. "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it."
The Attorney-General's Department hit back at these claims. It released a statement in which it said that by criticising the Government for not releasing end-of-year financial figures before the end of the current period, the Opposition showed it did not understand how the Budget works.
The Government also defended its legal bill, claiming "it has significantly improved the transparency and consistency of information".
The statement from the Attorney General's Department said that much of the increases in legal spending were due to the inclusion of agencies which had never previously reported their expenditure.
The Attorney-General also said that the growth in legal expenditure had declined from 25 per cent in 2007-08 to nine per cent in 2008-09.