Revised Explanatory Memorandum(Circulated by authority of the Attorney-General, the Honourable Philip Ruddock MP)
General outline and financial impact
The Administrative Appeals Tribunal Amendment Bill 2004 (the Bill) amends the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975 (the AAT Act) and related legislation to improve the capacity of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (the AAT) to manage its workload and ensure that reviews are conducted as efficiently as possible.
The Bill enacts reforms to the AAT in five key areas. In each area, the purpose behind the reforms is to make the AAT more efficient, flexible and responsive to the environment in which it operates. The reforms reinforce that the primary objective of the AAT is to provide a mechanism for review that is fair, just, economical, informal and quick.
The five key areas of reform are:
The Bill reforms existing AAT procedures to allow for more efficient conduct of reviews. The President is given the power to issue directions in relation to the operation of the AAT and the conduct of reviews. The provisions relating to disagreements between the members of the AAT hearing a particular matter are rationalised. The Bill also expands the range of alternative dispute resolution processes available to the AAT.
The Bill removes restrictions contained in the AAT Act and other legislation on how the AAT is to be constituted for the purposes of a particular hearing. As a consequence the President will have greater flexibility in managing the AAT's workload. To ensure that the AAT is constituted by the most appropriate members in each proceeding, the Bill requires the President to have regard to a range of factors such as expertise and experience when determining the constitution of the AAT. The reconstitution provisions have also been simplified.
The Bill allows the President to authorise ordinary members to exercise powers currently conferred exclusively on presidential and/or senior members. These powers include granting applications for an extension of time before a hearing has commenced and giving a party leave to inspect documents produced under summons.
The Bill introduces an amendment requiring the consent of the President before a question of law may be referred to the Federal Court. The Federal Court will also be given the power to make findings of fact when it conducts appeals from the AAT on questions of law. This power, which applies in limited circumstances, allows the Court to completely dispose of some matters that come before it without needing to remit them to the AAT.
The Bill removes provisions conferring tenure on any presidential member who is also a judge and allowing for the appointment of Deputy Presidents or senior members with tenure.
The Bill also contains a range of measures that modernise the vocabulary of the AAT Act and insert new headings to enhance the readability and user-friendliness of the Act. Criminal offences in the AAT Act have been re-drafted in the style of the Criminal Code and their penalties updated.
There is no direct financial impact on Government revenue from this Bill.