New tribunal will help prevent another Robodebt: Dreyfus

The new Administrative Review Tribunal, which is set to replace the old AAT, will help prevent another Robodebt, Attorney General Mark Dreyfus says.

Mark Dreyfus

Legislation  introduced late last year will see the Administrative Affairs Tribunal scrapped and replaced by the new ART, after deficiencies in the former were highlighted in last year’s final report of the Robodebt Royal Commission.

Subject to legislation passing, the Administrative Review Tribunal will begin operations in 2024 as a non-corporate Commonwealth entity accountable to the Parliament, the government says.

The ART will provide Australians with a quick, informal and simple means of challenging government decisions that affect their rights and interests, Mr Dreyfus writes in an essay in the February issue of The Monthly magazine.

“A key objective of the new tribunal will be to improve the quality and transparency of decision-making across government,” Mr Dreyfus writes.

The ART will provide a mechanism to review government decisions, including those relating to taxation, child support, social security, the NDIS, freedom of information and visas.

Key features of the legislation include:

  • enhanced powers and procedures
  • a transparent and merit-based selection process for all members
  • simplified membership structure
  • greater powers for the resident to manage ART members
  • simpler application processes and emphasis on a non-adversarial approach
  • mechanisms for the ART to identify, escalate and report on systemic issues in administrative decision-making

The defunded Australian Review council (ARC) will also be re-established, Mr Dreyfus says.

The ARC was originally tasked with producing reports and best practice guides on administrative law issues until it was discontinued and absorbed into the Attorney General’s Department in 2015.

Meanwhile, the creation of the new National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), which began work in 2023, represented the single biggest reform to the Commonwealth integrity framework in decades,” Mr Dreyfus says.

Together, the changes will restore integrity and accountability to government, Mr Dreyfus said, and prevent another Robodebt occurring.

“A catastrophic failure of public administration on such an extraordinary scale should not have been possible in Australia,” he writes.

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs has commenced an inquiry into legislation for the new ART “to ensure the bills achieve the government’s policy objectives and do not have unintended consequences”.

Submissions closed on January 18.

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