The Albanese government has introduced legislation to abolish the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and set up a new review body, almost one year after it first announced plans to axe the tribunal.
Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus announced last December that his government would replace the AAT, following years of allegations that the Coalition had stacked the tribunal with political connections, some without relevant work experience.
Under the proposed laws, the new review body would require members be appointed via a transparent merit-based process, and provide a new guidance and appeals panel to identify and escalate systemic issues raised in the tribunal.
The Administrative Review Tribunal Bill would also require the tribunal president to make a publicly-available code of conduct for members, and set requirements for disclosing and avoiding conflicts of interests.
The AAT was amalgamated with the Social Security Appeals Tribunal, Migration Review Tribunal and Refugee Review Tribunal under the Coalition government.
In a statement on Thursday morning, the Attorney-General's office said that the resulting body had been struggling with delays, a growing backlog of cases, multiple management systems, and unstable finances.
The report found that while a number of individual tribunal decisions questioned the legal basis of the scheme, "there was no mechanism for ensuring AAT decisions were reviewed in any systemic way".
"The result was that adverse decisions of the AAT about the use of income averaging were not sufficiently examined by either department; indeed, they were effectively ignored," royal commissioner Catherine Holmes wrote.
In the statement, the Attorney-General's office said it hoped the new body would help restore trust and confidence in Australia's administrative review system.
The proposed legislation was drafted under guidance from an expert advisory group, led by former High Court Justice Patrick Keane, and following months of engagement with AAT staff, advocates, and peak bodies.
In May, acting Attorney-General Katy Gallagher appointed Justice Emilios Kyrou as Federal Court judge and AAT President on a five-year term, to lead the tribunal and the new review body through this transition.
Since then, the government has announced more than 90 additional members to the tribunal, making good on its commitment to appoint at lest 75 more to address the backlog of cases.