16 December 2022

'Politicised' Administrative Appeals Tribunal abolished after reputation 'irreversibly damaged'

| Lottie Twyford
Join the conversation
Mark Dreyfus

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus announced the AAT would be abolished after its reputation had been ruined beyond repair. Photo: Mark Dreyfus.

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), which has been described as having an “irreversibly damaged” reputation, will be abolished by the Albanese government.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus announced the AAT would be replaced with an administrative review body next year which would “better serve” the interest of the Australian community and would have a selection process based on merit.

He accused the former government of having made dozens of politicised appointments in a “disgraceful exhibition of cronyism”.

“By appointing 85 former Liberal MPs, former Liberal staffers and other close Liberal associates without any merit-based selection process, including some individuals with no relevant experience or expertise, the former government fatally compromised the AAT, undermined its independence, and eroded the quality and efficiency of its decision-making,” he said.

“The AAT’s dysfunction has had a very real cost to the tens and thousands of people who rely on the AAT chair to independently review government decisions that have made major and sometimes life-changing impacts on their lives.

“Decisions such as whether an old Australian receives an aged pension, whether a veteran is compensated for a service injury or whether a participant in the NDIS received funding for support.”

READ ALSO Contract-less cleaning: more government procurement under the spotlight

A new “properly funded” body will be set up in the new year following the introduction of new legislation to do so, and it would have a “merit-based” appointment process, Mr Dreyfus said.

Matters before the tribunal will continue unaffected.

Current staff of the AAT will transition to the new body and the government said it is committed to working with the union to ensure staff are supported.

The union representing public servants – the Community and Public Sector Union – described the reform as long overdue.

“The AAT has lost the confidence of the public and many of its employees after years of partisan appointment and significant increases in workplace bullying and harassment,” CPSU national secretary Melissa Donnelly said.

The government further announced $63.4 million over two years for an additional 75 members to address the current backlog of cases and reduce wait times while the new body is being set up, as well as $11.7 million over two years for a single, streamlined case management system.

Over the years, accusations of politicised appointments to the tribunal have abounded and bullying accusations also surfaced in 2016.

A new set of appointment guidelines has been written up by the government.

Greens’ spokesperson for justice Senator David Shoebridge welcomed the decision.

“Goodbye to the AAT – a body so hopelessly politicised it has not been impartial for many years,” Mr Shoebridge said in a Tweet.

“We’re keen to work with the community, to create a fair and fast tribunal that holds the government to account and delivers real justice.”

READ ALSO Christmas wishes and a career change for your hound on the ground

The decision has been welcomed by The Australia Institute’s Democracy and Accountability Program.

Program director Bill Browne said Mr Dreyfus should be commended for the decision.

“A pattern of political appointments to the AAT, particularly in the last nine years, has undermined confidence in the tribunal and made a complete overhaul necessary,” he said in a statement.

“The AAT is responsible for reviewing life-changing decisions, like deportations, NDIS payments, child support, visas, veterans’ entitlements and commonwealth workers’ compensation, which means its members must be totally above reproach.

“Whatever body replaces the AAT must be robust and independent, and that means the AAT’s replacement must be carefully designed with an open and transparent appointment process that ensures only qualified, independent members are appointed.”

Justice Susan Kenny AM has been appointed Acting President of the Tribunal.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

Dreyfus is a grandstander. If he could use Tik Tok 24/7 he would

Stephen Saunders11:05 am 17 Dec 22

Maybe overkill from Dreyfus, but the sort of thing Labor can do, first-term with political capital. Another reputation-killer for Morrison, after his toxic show with Holmes and Greggery.

Scott Anthony3:25 pm 16 Dec 22

The AAT is a first class joke of inefficacy.. My own case took over 2 years and we ended up settling because we couldn’t trust the AAT to then do its job properly, cost me tens of thousands… Its also likely cost taxpayers tens of thousands to administer virtually nothing useful… Good riddance to bad rubbish,, disband the Victims of Crime Commissioner and DPP next too please… do us a real community service as taxpayers..

Capital Retro11:07 am 17 Dec 22

What makes you think its replacement will be any different?

I can’t comment on the operations of the AAT but any replacement tribunal will not be stacked with cronies and ex-Liberals Capital Retro. That is what will make it different.

Capital Retro10:27 am 24 Dec 22

Of course, Jack D. The Labor Party never has anything to do with “stacking” and cronies. Just ask Kevin Rudd.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.