Annual report 2013–14
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© Australian Government Solicitor 2014
4 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600
ISSN 1444-6154 (print)
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Photography: Andrew Sikorski/Art Atelier
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Australian Government Solicitor
4 National Circuit Barton ACT 2600
Locked Bag 7246 Canberra Mail Centre ACT 2610
T 02 6253 7000 DX 5678 Canberra
26 September 2014
Senator the Hon George Brandis QC
CANBERRA ACT 2600
AGS Annual Report 2013–14
I have great pleasure in submitting to you, for presentation to each House of Parliament, the annual report of the Australian Government Solicitor (AGS) covering the period 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014.
The report is submitted to you in accordance with section 9 of the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997.
Chief Executive Officer
It is 30 years since AGS began operations under our current name, and 15 years since we became a government business enterprise. While much has changed for AGS during those years, one thing has remained the same – our dedicated service to government.
For the past 3 decades we have consistently demonstrated our value in supporting the executive government and, in particular, the Attorney-General as First Law Officer. This year was no exception. As the Government began implementing its major reform agenda, we provided the solid legal foundation required. Our work assisted with Operation Sovereign Borders, the proposed paid parental leave scheme, the independent audit of the NBN process, the privatisation of Medibank, 2 royal commissions and the Farm Finance Concessional Loans Scheme.
We have also, for the past 15 years, shown our financial effectiveness as a profitable organisation that receives no Budget funding. We remain the leading supplier in the government external legal service market, despite increased competition.
The results this year are again very pleasing, especially as it has been a difficult trading year. We continued to face strong competition for work and the impact of cost pressures on clients. Our legal trading profit (EBIT) was $4.2 million ($3.2 million above corporate plan and $80,000 above last year).
We made significant savings in corporate areas, with overhead expenses (excluding staff costs) being under budget by $2.7 million. This, along with other measures, helped achieve a very strong return on equity of 10.5% for the fiscal year – well above the previous year’s figure of 8.9% and more than double the corporate plan target of 5%.
As well as the reductions in corporate costs, our results reflect our ongoing focus on increasing business, in particular, to strengthen relationships with clients and promote AGS’s special expertise – key objectives of our corporate plan. Our clients continue to support us and rely on us. The demand for our services overall increased this year. We opened more than 8,500 matters, an increase of 16% on the previous year. Despite the increasing numbers of in-house lawyers in government agencies, the demand for our outposted lawyers almost doubled.
AGS has a highly-experienced and committed workforce. We continue to develop our legal practice and the resources that support it. We continue to entrench excellence in client service as a fundamental principle of our operations, and reinforce it through client-focused strategies in our corporate plan. We are upgrading our business systems – in particular our practice management and document management systems – to improve efficiencies for our staff and our clients.
As we celebrate the milestones of our name and our business structure, we look to the new financial year with confidence that we are more capable than ever of meeting the needs of government and our individual clients.
I wish to thank our clients for their continuing support for AGS and our shareholder Ministers and AGS Advisory Board for their roles in supporting and advising us.
I acknowledge with gratitude the dedication, effort and continuing commitment of AGS staff in delivering our substantial achievements this year. In particular, I mention Robert Orr PSM QC, Chief General Counsel, and David Riggs, Chief Financial Officer, who retired during the year after many years of outstanding service.
Chief Executive Officer
NEW AGS PREMISES
After almost 17 years in the Lionel Murphy building, Barton – and spilling over into 2 or 3 neighbouring buildings as needed – AGS this year acquired new Canberra headquarters.
On 14 September 2013, we moved into 4 National Circuit, Barton, in a building known simply as 4NC. The move brought to a close a long-running project to have all Canberra staff co-located in more modern, well-appointed premises, with up-to-date facilities to benefit staff and our clients.
The Attorney-General, Senator the Hon George Brandis QC, officially opened our new headquarters on Tuesday 4 February 2014, at our annual back-to-work drinks function. Around 150 clients and senior AGS staff attended the event.
The AGS Brisbane office also moved this year after 23 years in Adelaide Street. At the end of March, staff took up residence in the heart of the Brisbane CBD at 145 Ann Street. The move placed the office, which supports a busy litigation practice, within easy walking distance of the Brisbane courts precinct and counsel chambers.
4 National Circuit, Barton
145 Ann Street