Professor Terry Carney, University of Sydney, Dermott Williams, Community Lawyer at Social Security Rights Victoria
The current AAT system is not fit for purpose, is not working as it should, and it impedes the proper consideration of merits review in this country. These are the findings of the Senate inquiry into Australia’s administrative review system (Inquiry Interim Report at [7.51].)
The substantive interim report, delivered in March this year and adopted as the Senate Committee’s final report, included recommendations for changes that could improve that system, and in particular the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (‘AAT’). The recommendations aimed to address the significant concerns about the system raised during the inquiry, and included things like re-establishing the Administrative Review Council as well as formalising and reforming the process of appointing members to the AAT. But notably, three recommendations were made together to effect disassembly of the current review system and establishment of an entirely new one.
Such issues have also been ventilated in the media recently. Whether that be calling into question the number and nature of political appointments to the AAT (https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/jun/29/labor-led-senate-inquiry-to-call-for-axing-of-liberal-dominated-aat) or disciplining members for the content of their decisions (https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/may/16/aat-member-says-he-was-benched-after-too-many-decisions-against-government), it’s clear this is a topical issue.
And it’s topical for us too. Administrative review is a key part of the work of social security focussed lawyers and legal services. It’s the venue we can most directly apply our skills to get an outcome for our clients.
The integrity and performance of that system being at the standard we expect is paramount to our work and to our clients accessing justice. And that’s what we’ll be discussing at the Economic Justice Australia Conference this year.
Professor Terry Carney will be talking about these issues, drawing on his experience as a former AAT member and his recent writings on the topic. Dermott will also be contributing observations based on her centre’s recent experiences with the AAT.
Inquiry Interim Report: https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Legal_and_Constitutional_Affairs/Adminreviewsystem/Interim_Report
Terry Carney Submission: https://www.aph.gov.au/DocumentStore.ashx?id=f0cf9b47-44e6-4f83-84e4-01cde3de874c&subId=717719
SSRV Submission: https://www.aph.gov.au/DocumentStore.ashx?id=fd10b70d-ace9-49fd-983a-6cd547b14150&subId=717821
HEAR MORE AT EJA’S 2022 CONFERENCE. PROGRAM AND REGISTRATION INFORMATION AVAILABLE HERE.
 See, for example, Economic Justice Australia’s submission to the Senate inquiry into the application of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Australia, 23 June 2022, accessible here: https://www.ejaustralia.org.au/inquiry-into-the-application-of-the-united-nations-declaration-on-the-rights-of-indigenous-peoples-in-australia/ and Economic Justice Australia’s submission in response to the Indigenous Voice Discussion Paper, 30 March 2021, accessible here: https://www.ejaustralia.org.au/wp-content/uploads/Indigenous-Voice-submission_Economic-Justice-Australia_30-March-2021.pdf.
 Change the Record 2022 election campaign platform, https://www.changetherecord.org.au/electionplatform
 Indigenous Voice Discussion Paper, 5 January 2021. Accessible here: https://apo.org.au/sites/default/files/resource-files/2021-01/apo-nid310489.pdf