‘Irreversibly damaged’: Administrative Appeals Tribunal to be scrapped

The federal government has announced the scrapping of the controversial Administrative Appeals Tribunal after Labor persistently criticised it as being stacked with Coalition appointees.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said the body charged with reviewing administrative decisions had been “irreversibly damaged” by the appointment of 85 former Liberal MPs, Liberal staffers and other party associates, and a new “merit-based” tribunal would be created in its stead.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has announced the abolition of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

“Australians rightly expect honesty, accountability and integrity in government … the Albanese government is committed to restoring the trust and confidence in Australia’s system of administrative review,” he told a press conference in Canberra.

Dreyfus in November vowed to reform the peak tribunal that rules on matters ranging from tax disputes to social service claims after years of Labor concern that the body was being stacked with Liberals.

His pledge to the Labor caucus also came after revelations in Senate hearings that 19 members of the tribunal had been the subject of bullying, harassment or discrimination complaints over the past six years.

“The AAT’s dysfunction has had a very real cost to the tens of 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,” he said.

He said the overhaul would include spending $63.4 million to recruit 75 more tribunal members over two years to resolve the backlog of cases hindering the tribunal, and more money to streamline the case management system.

“Over the coming months, the Commonwealth government will consult on the design of the new body and we intend to introduce legislation to establish it next year,” Dreyfus said. “Importantly, current staff of the AAT will transition to the new body as part of the reform.”

Dreyfus said matters currently before the AAT would be unaffected. They would continue to be heard as the reform progressed and would transition to the new review body once it was established.

He said existing members of the tribunal would be invited to reapply for their positions when the new agency was created.

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