The Labor government will replace the Administrative Appeals Tribunal with a new administrative review body after claims it has been stuffed with Liberal staffers appointed with no merit.

Attorney General Mark Dreyfus said the public standing of the tribunal has been “irreversibly damaged” due to the actions of the former government, citing the appointment of 85 former Liberal MPs, failed candidates, staffers and associates appointed without merit.

“The former government fatally compromised the AAT, undermined its independence and eroded the quality and efficiency of its decision-making,” Dreyfus said in a media release on Friday.

“The Albanese Government inherited an AAT that is not on a sustainable financial footing, that is beset by delays and an extraordinarily large and growing backlog of applications and that is operating multiple and ageing electronic case management systems – a legacy of the former government’s mismanagement of the amalgamation of the AAT with the Social Security Appeals Tribunal and the Migration Review Tribunal and Refugee Review Tribunal.”

Dreyfus said a merit-based selection process will be a central part of the new body and existing non-judicial members will be invited to apply.

“In line with our commitment to merit-based appointments, the Government has developed a set of guidelines for appointments to the AAT prior to its abolition,” Dreyfus said.

“Appointments of non-judicial members to the new body will be consistent with the principles set out in these guidelines.”

The Hon Justice Susan Kenny AM has been appointed as the acting president of the AAT, with a merit-based selection process to commence in due course.

Big investment

The government will consult with stakeholders on the design of the new body which will be guided by an advisory group led by former Justice of the High Court of Australia Hon Patrick Keane AC KC.

“The Albanese Government is committed to restoring trust and confidence in Australia’s system of administrative review – beginning with the establishment of a new administrative review body that is user-focused, efficient, accessible, independent and fair,” Dreyfus said.

As part of the reform, the Government has committed:

  • $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; and
  • $11.7 million over two years for a single, streamlined case management system.

The Government will undertake further work as part of the reform process to ensure the financial sustainability of the new body.

Existing matters

Matters currently before the AAT will be unaffected and will continue to be heard, while current staff of the AAT will transition to the new body as part of the reform.

“The Government is committed to working closely with the Community and Public Sector Union and the AAT to ensure that hardworking staff of the AAT are supported through this process,” Dreyfus said.

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