External review of administrative decisions on the merits is an accepted part of the Australian administrative law landscape. Reforms made in the Commonwealth sphere during the 1970s included the establishment of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, and lead to the creation and development of generalist and specialist review tribunals both in the Commonwealth and the States. Review of administrative decisions by an external, independent, tribunal which would have the power to substitute the “correct or preferable” decision was seen by the Kerr Committee in 1971 as the key to correcting “error or impropriety in the making of administrative decisions affecting a citizen’s rights.” The focus was on redressing individual grievances, and only incidentally in playing a role in improving administrative decision-making. By the time of the ARC Better Decisions report in 1995, improving the quality and consistency of agency decision-making was seen as one of four specific objectives of the merits review system, the others being providing the correct and preferable decision in individual cases, providing an accessible mechanism for merits review, and enhancing the openness and accountability of government.
This paper raises three questions for consideration. First, why are we concerned about the impact of external tribunal review, whether on an individual level or on administration more generally? Second, what do we mean by “impact”, and how might we measure it? Third, what do we know about how agencies respond to tribunal review decisions?
Date of this Version
Linda Pearson, "The Impact of External Administrative Law Review: Tribunals" (August 2007). University of New South Wales Faculty of Law Research Series. Working Paper 53.