Law that regulates government decision making
Administrative law is the body of law that regulates government decision making. Access to review of government decisions is a key component of access to justice.
The Australian Government works to improve the quality of access to justice for individuals by adopting:
- best practice in administrative decision making
- effective review and accountability mechanisms.
The federal administrative law system
Administrative law offers accountability mechanisms that apply to government decision making about individual matters.
Accountability mechanisms include:
- merits review—by government agencies and by tribunals
- investigations—by the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner
- internal agency practices—including codes of conduct and alternative dispute resolution
- judicial review—conducted by the federal courts.
The Australian Government Administrative Law Policy Guide helps policy makers understand and identify administrative law issues in draft legislation or proposals.
The Attorney-General's role
The Attorney-General has policy responsibility for administrative law. This includes oversight of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and legislative instruments.
The Attorney-General's approval must be sought for amendments to Acts for which they have responsibility, particularly the following:
- Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975
- Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977
- Judiciary Act 1903
- Legislation Act 2003
The Legislation Act 2003 provides for the making, registration, publication, parliamentary scrutiny and sunsetting of Commonwealth delegated legislation.
A new system of federal administrative review
The Australian Government has committed to providing a federal system of administrative review that is:
To achieve this, they have announced reform that will abolish the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) and replace it with a new federal administrative review body. The reform will also establish a transparent, merit-based system of appointments.
Find out more about the new system of federal administrative review.
Administrative Review Council
The Administrative Review Council (ARC) was an independent policy advisory body established under the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975. The ARC issued reports and best practice guides on administrative law issues. In 2015, the ARC was discontinued and its functions were consolidated into the Attorney General's Department. The Minister for Finance announced this as part of the May 2015 Smaller Government reforms.
The ARC was not a merits review body. It did not examine individual claims or hear appeals.
For copies of the ARC's 50 published reports and other publications, including its best practice guides, visit the Administrative Review Council – Publications page.
Government agencies can seek specific advice on decision-making structures, review of decisions, regulatory powers provisions and legislative frameworks by emailing AdminLaw@ag.gov.au. Advice on matters relating to sunsetting under the Legislation Act can be sought by emailing email@example.com.