AAT: Importance, Independence & Appointments

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The Commonwealth Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) commenced operations in 1976. Over time its jurisdiction has been expanded and it now reviews a vast array of federal government decisions made under more than 400 Acts. The AAT stands as one of the key mechanisms for government accountability, a role which may, but need not, place it in conflict with the government. Recently, AAT decisions concerning visa cancellations for those with criminal records have received negative media attention. Also attracting damaging public attention has been the appointment of people to the AAT who hold associations to the political party in power. Despite its operation for 43 years and the important accountability role of the AAT, the need for independence in appointments continues to be a contentious issue. It is timely once again, especially in the lead-up to a federal election, to advocate in support of the AAT and specifically for reform in the appointment process to secure the tribunal’s independence.

The AAT facilitates access to justice by conducting merits review of government decisions thereby permitting ordinary people to have their voice heard when their matter is reviewed by an independent, expert body. The availability of independent review increases public confidence in government decision-making because it shows the government’s commitment to transparency. These positive benefits are at risk if the public perceives the appointment process as undermining the independence of the AAT. It is contended there is an appetite among the general public for improving standards in public office, as seen by the rising support for the creation of a Commonwealth anti-corruption body.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAustralian Public Law Blog
Publication statusPublished - 11 Apr 2019


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