15 March 2024

Government advertises for CEO and principal registrar of rejigged Administrative Review Tribunal

| Andrew McLaughlin
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A-G Mark Dreyfus

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus hoped the change to the ART would remove the change of political interference in the agency, but Crossbenchers say a loophole would still allow him to approve or refuse appointments. Photo: Mark Dreyfus Facebook.

Following its efforts to replace the former Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) with the rejigged Administrative Review Tribunal (ART), the Federal Government has started the recruitment process for a CEO and a principal registrar of the new agency.

In December 2022 Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus described the former AAT as dysfunctional and politicised, and that it would be replaced by a new agency.

Falling within the portfolio of the Attorney-General’s Department, the AAT was established in July 1976 by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975.

The new body will still be tasked with conducting merits review of administrative decisions made under Commonwealth laws, including by Australian Government ministers, departments and agencies, and state government and non-government bodies.

But in September last year Mr Dreyfus said the ART would enjoy enhanced powers and procedures, a transparent and merit-based selection process for its members, a simplified membership structure and clear and delineated roles and responsibilities for ART leadership, and other procedural improvements.

Following an inquiry into the establishment of the ART, the government’s draft bill for the new agency was tabled on 28 February.

But as Region reported on 1 March, Mr Dreyfus’ efforts appear to have hit a roadblock, with Crossbench MPs raising concerns a new forum could be too easily politicised which is exactly what the new body is designed to avoid.

Independent MP Kate Chaney, who sits on the House committee examining the bill, pointed to what she described as a loophole to allow an Attorney-General to override the merit-based process. Instead, she suggested appointments to the ART should be dealt with by a panel and not by simple regulation.

READ ALSO Administrative Appeals Tribunal reform stumbles at Crossbench

“My concern is that to ensure an effective transparent and merit-based process, the appointment process must be protected from politicisation,” she said.

“Appointments to the ART should not be able to be used as a reward for political allies. The regulation model relies on the perceived safety net of ‘merit-based’ appointments and future flexible regulations.

“Given past issues with politicisation of appointments, I am not satisfied that these issues can be appropriately addressed in regulations.”

ACT Senator David Pocock and Tasmanian Senator Jackie Lambie are reportedly backing Ms Chaney’s calls, and with the Coalition likely to vote against the bill, the government will need to placate the Crossbench in order to get the bill through.

While the political process continues, a 12 March release says the new role will commence in 2024. It said this was an opportunity for an appropriately qualified individual to make a significant contribution to the most important reform of the federal system of administrative review in decades.

As statutory agency head, the CEO and principal registrar will support the president of the tribunal in managing the tribunal’s administrative affairs and pursuing its objectives, as well as manage the corporate and registry services of the tribunal.

It said the role would be pivotal in establishing the new tribunal, finalising the transition from the AAT and setting up the new tribunal for long-term success. The successful candidate would lead with integrity and promote a safe, respectful and inclusive workplace culture.

More information about the new role is available on the Attorney-General’s Department website.

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