Members appointed to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal should have legal qualifications, a former High Court justice has found, in a report recommending major changes to the tribunal.
But having a political career shouldn't be seen as an impediment to taking on a role at the tribunal, former justice Ian Callinan found.
Attorney General Christian Porter ordered the review into the Administrative Appeal Tribunal last year, asking the former judge to examine the success of the 2015 amalgamation of the Social Security Appeals Tribunal and the Migration Review Tribunal and Refugee Review Tribunal with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
In recent years the government has been criticised for a series of appointments to the tribunal, including many with careers as Liberal politicians or staffers.
According to the review, a number of members of the tribunal also expressed concern with political appointments being made, and also the appointment of members without appropriate legal qualifications.
In February this year alone, former Senate president Stephen Parry, along with five former Liberal MPs (federal and state) and three former Liberal staffers, were appointed.
"Political engagement, either as a politician or an employee of a politician, is no more a disqualification for office than employment as a public servant," the review found.
"Indeed, service of all of these kinds may be useful experience in undertaking merits review as the AAT does."
Mr Callinan did emphasise the need for transparency in the recruitment process, as well as proper qualifications.
"All further appointments, re-appointments or renewals of appointment to the Membership of the AAT should be of lawyers, admitted or qualified for admission to a Supreme Court of a State or Territory or the High Court of Australia, and on the basis of merit."
In a 190-page and wide-ranging review, Mr Callinan also called for more appointments to tackle the backlog of cases waiting for the Migration and Refugee Division, as well as changes to staff structures and the way cases are handled.
Mr Callinan also criticised a "dashboard" that measures the number of cases in the Migration and Refugee Division finalised by each member, saying a quantitative measure isn't always a reliable measure of performance with complicated cases.
Mr Callinan took a strong position on the division of work between members and registry staff, as well as saying the Tribunal should not use external consultants.
He also recommended removing the ability for the general division of the tribunal to review decisions made in the Social Security and Child Support Division.
Attorney General Christian Porter said the government was carefully considering the recommendations and is committed to improving the Tribunal.