A new system of federal administrative review
The Australian Government has introduced legislation that would abolish the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) and establish a new, fit-for-purpose federal administrative review body to be named the Administrative Review Tribunal (the Tribunal).
The Tribunal would be user-focused, efficient, accessible, independent and fair.
Key features of the reform
The reform to Australia’s system of administrative review aims to:
- implement a transparent and merit-based appointments process
- appoint additional members to address existing backlogs
- implement sustainable funding arrangements
- implement a single, updated case management system to address critical business risks
- introduce procedural efficiencies and process improvements
- implement support services and emphasise early resolution where possible.
Introduction of legislation
On 7 December 2023, the government introduced 2 bills to parliament:
- the Administrative Review Tribunal Bill 2023 (the ART Bill) which would establish the new Tribunal and re-establish the Administrative Review Council
- the Administrative Review Tribunal (Consequential and Transitional Provisions No. 1) Bill 2023 (Consequential and Transitional Bill No. 1) which would abolish the AAT, make amendments to a range of Commonwealth Acts and enable the transition of AAT staff, operations and matters to the Tribunal.
On 7 February 2024, the government introduced:
- the Administrative Review Tribunal (Consequential and Transitional Provisions No. 2) Bill 2024, (Consequential and Transitional Bill No. 2), which would make amendments to 110 Commonwealth Acts (including amendments to a number of Commonwealth Acts requiring State and Territory consultation) to ensure continuity for the Tribunal and its users.
The ART Bill sets out the new Tribunal’s objectives. The Tribunal would be required to pursue the objective of providing administrative review that:
- is fair and just
- resolves applications in a timely manner, with as little formality and expense as is consistent with reaching the correct or preferable decision
- is accessible and responds to the diverse needs of parties
- improves the transparency and quality of government decision-making
- promotes public trust and confidence in the Tribunal.
Further information on proposed key features of the Tribunal is available in the overview of the Administrative Review Tribunal legislation.
Consequential and Transitional Bill No. 1 amends 138 Commonwealth Acts (covering around 93 per cent of the AAT’s current caseload) to ensure that existing legislation operates as intended for the new Tribunal. This Bill:
- updates hundreds of references to the AAT across the Commonwealth statute book
- streamlines and harmonises the various regimes that currently apply to review of matters in the Tribunal.
Consequential and Transitional Bill No. 2 would make amendments to 110 Commonwealth Acts to ensure continuity for the Tribunal and its users. States and territories were consulted on the amendments where required.
The Tribunal's commencement date will depend on timing of passage of the legislation, as well as other transitional arrangements.
The bills have been informed by:
- the outcomes of public consultation undertaken in April and May 2023
- guidance from the Administrative Review Expert Advisory Group, chaired by former High Court Justice, the Hon Patrick Keane AC KC
- close engagement across government and with the AAT
- targeted consultation on draft legislation in September and October 2023.
We released the Administrative Review Reform Issues Paper and short survey on 3 April 2023. The department received 120 formal submissions and 287 short survey responses, and met with over 140 individuals and organisations in 80 consultation meetings throughout April and May 2023 to discuss the matters in the issues paper.
We also met with over 400 AAT staff and over 160 AAT members and heard directly from AAT users across a number of user experience consultation sessions.
Expert Advisory Group
An Advisory Group has provided significant guidance on the reform to Australia’s system of federal administrative review.
The Advisory Group comprises:
- former High Court Justice, the Hon. Patrick Keane AC KC (Chair)
- Ms Rachel Amamoo
- Emeritus Professor Robin Creyke AO
- Professor Anna Cody
- Emeritus Professor Ron McCallum AO
- The Hon. Alan Robertson SC
- Emeritus Professor Cheryl Saunders AO.
The ART Bill would enshrine a transparent and merit-based selection process for members, who are responsible for making the Tribunal’s decisions. This would ensure independent and high-quality decision-making within the Tribunal.
Other than Judicial Deputy Presidents, all member positions in the Tribunal would be filled through a competitive, publicly-advertised and merit-based process. This process would be supported by rules that set out a detailed procedure and selection criteria for the process, similar to those contained within the current AAT Appointment Guidelines.
Information about appointments made in the course of this reform can be found on our Statutory appointments page. This page will also provide information about appointment opportunities for the Tribunal as they are opened.
Arrangements for AAT staff
Once the Tribunal has been established, all ongoing and non-ongoing Australian Public Service employees employed by the AAT at that time will transition to the new Tribunal on equivalent terms and conditions.
The government consulted the AAT on the design of the Tribunal and will continue to engage with the AAT over the course of the reform.
Impact on AAT cases
All cases currently before the AAT will continue as usual while the reform is progressed. If you have applied to the AAT for review of a decision, you do not need to submit a new application.
You can apply for a review of a decision while the reform is being progressed.
Many cases currently before the AAT will be decided or finalised before the Tribunal is established. Any cases that are before the AAT will transition to the new Tribunal when it commences.
The jurisdiction of the Tribunal would be the same as the AAT, which reviews decisions made under more than 400 Commonwealth Acts and instruments, including in areas of child support, workers’ compensation, social security, the NDIS, migration and refugee visas, taxation, security and veterans’ entitlements.
Applicants will not need to submit a new application for review of these cases. Applicants will receive notice prior to the establishment of the Tribunal and be provided with information on the process of transitioning their case.
Find out more
To find out more about the reform: