Thursday, 1 August 2019
Administrative Appeals Tribunal
That the Senate—
(a) acknowledges that:
(ii) the AAT permits citizens to address wrongs in administrative decision-making through a process which is fair, just, economical, informal and quick, and
(iii) citizens must hold trust and confidence in the decision-making of the AAT; and
(b) notes that:
(i) most appointments to the AAT are Federal Court judges or experienced legal practitioners, however paragraph 7(3)(b) of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975 provides for appointment of senior members and members that, in the opinion of the Governor-General, have special knowledge or skills relevant to the duties of a senior member or member,
(ii) there have been forceful allegations made in the media that a number of appointments made under this provision have been political, for example the appointment of former politicians and political staffers, which undermines public trust and confidence in the AAT, and
(c) calls on the Federal Government to urgently introduce a bill into the Parliament to repeal paragraph 7(3)(b) of the Act.
The government is considering the recommendations of the Hon. Ian Callinan AC QC. The consideration of Mr Callinan's recommendations to limit members to lawyers will be considered in the context of the AAT's role to provide merits review that is low-cost and informal. This includes having large numbers of current members without legal backgrounds but with expertise across the diverse range of matters considered by the AAT. The government will continue to ensure that all members are appropriately qualified and appointed on merit.
Labor will not support this motion that would prohibit nonlawyers from being appointed to the AAT. There are some nonlawyers who have the skills and experience to make them an excellent AAT member. However, there is no doubt that the Liberal government has grossly misused the AAT as a Liberal Party employment agency. The Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government have appointed at least 57 Liberal friends to lucrative jobs on the AAT, where full-time senior members are paid over $380,000 a year and even junior members are paid at least $190,000 a year. The appointments include failed Liberal candidates, dumped Liberal MPs and long-time staffers straight out of the office of the Attorney-General, Mr Porter, who hands out these appointments. The misuse of the AAT as a dumping ground for unemployable Liberals must stop.
I understand that one of the discussions reached yesterday was movers of motions are considered to be speaking through their motion and aren't going to be granted leave to make statements. I understand that's a matter for the whips and others, but leave was denied at that point. The question is the motion moved by Senator Patrick be agreed to.