Chris Moraitis departs secretary role to lead Office of the Special Investigator

By Shannon Jenkins

December 17, 2020

Secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department Chris Moraitis appears before a Senate estimates hearing in Canberra, Thursday, October 22, 2020. (AAP Image_Mick Tsikas)

Senior mandarin Chris Moraitis has been named director-general of the new body tasked with investigating and prosecuting alleged war crimes committed by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan.

Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton on Wednesday announced the Office of the Special Investigator (OSI) would start its work in examining and addressing the findings of the Brereton report from January 4.

Former commonwealth director of public prosecutions (CDPP) Mark Weinberg has been appointed special investigator, and will be supported by director of investigations Ross Barnett, a former Queensland Police deputy commissioner.

Weinberg will be responsible for assessing the matters raised by the inquiry and referring briefs of evidence to the CDPP when necessary.

Moraitis, the current secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department, is a “highly-regarded public servant with significant experience in complex policy and legal matters”, Dutton said.

“He will provide strategic oversight and leadership to the operations of the Office of the Special Investigator,” he said.

Read more: What Chris Moraitis learned from 5 years of constant organisation change

Moraitis has led the AGD since September 2014. Prior to that, he served in a number of senior roles at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, including as Australia’s high commissioner to Papua New Guinea, and held diplomatic postings in Paris, Madrid and Geneva.

Attorney-general Christian Porter has congratulated his secretary on the appointment.

“I thank Mr Moraitis for the support he has provided me since I was appointed attorney-general in December 2017 and for his very significant and much appreciated contribution to the government. This period has been particularly intensive with major government reforms and, since the last election, adding industrial relations to the department’s functions,” he said.

“I wish Mr Moraitis every success in his new role.”

His replacement has not yet been announced.

Read more: The Coalition’s favourite think tank wants AGD secretary Chris Moraitis stood down

The government announced it would establish the OSI within the Department of Home Affairs more than a month ago, roughly a week before the heavily-redacted Afghanistan Inquiry Report was released.

The report had revealed that prisoners, farmers and other civilians were among the 39 people who were allegedly murdered by 25 Australian Special Forces personnel in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016.

Major General Justice Paul Brereton had investigated 57 allegations and made 143 recommendations in his report, all of which were accepted by the government.

Dutton said that while the appointees have a challenging task ahead, their combined experience would “serve the office well”.

Read more: The Briefing: Reactions to the Brereton report span grief, anger, defensiveness and more


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