New System of Federal Administrative Reviews

by Pathways | in News

New System of Federal Administrative Reviews

New System of Federal Administrative Reviews

On 19 December 2022, the Australian Government announced it will establish a new system of administrative review. As part of these changes, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) will be abolished and replaced with a new federal administrative review body. The Australian Government will introduce legislation into Parliament in 2023 to establish the new federal review body, with community consultation on how the new body could work prior to then.  

What Is The AAT?

The AAT is the federal administrative review system for appealing decisions made under commonwealth laws. This includes those related to Centrelink, child support, migration and refugees, taxation, freedom of information and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).  

Decisions in the AAT are often, but not exclusively, made by only one Tribunal Member. In making a decision at the AAT, the Tribunal Members are required to remake the relevant government decision in accordance with the law, having regard to relevant facts and government policy. The AAT describes itself as an organisation that “provides independent merits review of a wide range of administrative decisions made by the Australian Government [emphasis added]”.  

Why the Changes?

Key features of the reform of Australia’s system of administrative review includes implementing a transparent and merit-based appointments process. Before this announcement, AAT Members were appointed by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Attorney-General. AAT Members were able to be appointed for up to seven years and could then be reappointed. AAT Members were required to only have ‘knowledge or skills’ relevant to their appointment. The ability to appoint people on this wide basis of having ‘special knowledge or skills’ has enabled the previous appointment of people with a broad variety of experiences that does necessarily include a legal background.  

In 2018, a review conducted into the AAT by former High Court Chief Justice Callinan, recommended “all further appointments, reappointments or renewals of appointment … should be of lawyers, admitted or qualified for admission to a Supreme Court of a State or Territory or the High Court of Australia, and on the basis of merit’. This is based on the central role the law plays in the functioning of Tribunal Members, in relation to conducting the hearings and the making of determinations through interpreting the legislation and applying the relevant facts.  

Impact on Cases Currently Before the AAT

The Attorney-General’s Department website states that “all cases currently before the AAT will continue. If you have applied to the AAT for review of a decision, you do not need to submit a new application”.  

As of writing, there is no indication of when the new review body will be implemented. Attorney-General’s Department website advises “any remaining cases will transition to the new review body” once it is established. You can apply for a review of a decision while the reform is being progressed.