House debates

Monday, 18 March 2024

Questions without Notice

Administrative Review Tribunal

4:48 pm

Photo of David SmithDavid Smith (Bean, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Attorney-General. How will the Albanese Labor government's Administrative Review Tribunal clean up the mess left by the former government?

4:49 pm

Photo of Mark DreyfusMark Dreyfus (Isaacs, Australian Labor Party, Cabinet Secretary) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Bean for his question. Yes, the stacking of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal under the former government was a sight to behold. As many as 85 former Liberal MPs, failed Liberal candidates, former Liberal staffers and other close associates of the Liberal Party were piled into plum jobs with the AAT, without any merit based selection process, on salaries worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. They did it again and again, including on the eve of the last election.

Decisions of the AAT have life-changing impacts for thousands of Australians. From people with a disability seeking support through the NDIS to vulnerable families trying to get the right social security payments, Australians count on the AAT to get a fair hearing. But the Liberal Party didn't care. The stacking of the AAT by the Liberal Party was shameless. It just went higher and higher, like the world's most perilous game of Jenga, stack after stack, and it resulted in a tribunal that was entirely dysfunctional. And I hope you heard the earlier part of my answer! Backlogs out of control, people waiting months or even years for review of a basic AAT decision—just like a game of Jenga, it all came tumbling down.

Well, the Albanese government does care about Australians who are struggling. We do care about their right to a fair and independent process and to have a system they can trust. We wasted no time, on coming into office, in starting to fix the mess that those opposite left. The legislation that I introduced in December last year, developed in consultation with people who use the system every day, would abolish the AAT and replace it with a new administrative review body that is user focused, efficient, accessible, independent and fair. The legislation requires that members of the tribunal be appointed through a competitive, publicly advertised, merit based process. Our commitment to this is already on display, with more than 100 new appointments made already through our merit based process.

The Administrative Review Tribunal Bill will be debated in this place this week. I thank the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs, chaired by my friend the member for Macquarie, for its suggestions on how the bill can be improved, and the stakeholders who have engaged constructively with my office on these issues. We're committed to getting this right. (Time expired)