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Subprogram 4.4-Administrative Appeals Tribunal

SENATOR MACDONALD -Mr Reaburn's advice to me is that the $500 is not applicable in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, that it is only $200. I would just point out that Budget Paper No. 1 says at page 4.13:

The Government will introduce a new fee structure in federal courts and the AAT . . . with the aim of achieving a more equitable fee structure. The major change will be the introduction of a setting down fee of $500 in all jurisdictions . . .

MR SKEHILL -I can only apologise if that is an error. The proposal has always been $500 in the courts and $200 in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

SENATOR MACDONALD -On page 158, you say that the Tribunal's social justice program is to be developed further through ongoing work of its Access and Equity Committee. Can you tell me about the Access and Equity Committee, who constitutes it, what it does and how much it costs?

MR SCHULZ -It is a Committee set up by the President of the Tribunal. It comprises of Senior Member Kiosoglous of Adelaide, two part time members, Ms Rodopoulos in Melbourne and Ms Kalowski in Sydney, together with a staff member from Principal Registry. Their role has been to look at the issue of access to the Tribunal by outsiders and also to look at the issue of the awareness amongst members and staff of the Tribunal as to cross-cultural issues. They have developed a program of awareness of cross-cultural issues within the Tribunal, for example, how to handle a person who has difficulty in speaking English over the counter or in the hearing room or with interpreters . That Committee has developed a program which basically is to go out into the community to speak with community and aid workers about the administrative review process and access to the Tribunal in particular.

Another one of the members of the Committee is speaking to members and staff in each of our capital cities about dealing with people from the ethnic community and Aboriginal communities. Also it is in the process of developing some brochures appropriate for those involved in community work.

SENATOR MACDONALD -Are those people whose names you mentioned actually existing members of the AAT?

MR SCHULZ -That is correct.

SENATOR MACDONALD -And they are conducting investigations in Melbourne and Sydney.

MR SCHULZ -Australia-wide. They just happen to be based in those two cities, plus Adelaide. Their brief is to look at the access and equity policy for the Tribunal nationwide.

SENATOR MACDONALD -When did they last, for example, do some investigations in North Queensland or Western Australia?

MR SCHULZ -Their program to date has involved speaking with community and aid workers in the capital cities. It is envisaged that as we move beyond that program, we would look at regional centres, including those centres you referred to.

SENATOR MACDONALD - And can you, at some later time, give me the costs of that Committee's operation? I guess the salaries of the three people are just part of their-no, they would not be if they are part time members, would they?

MR SCHULZ -Our budget for the access and equity program this year for administrative items, printing and so forth, is $40,000. In addition, we have earmarked some $8,000 for in effect a consultancy fee for those part time members who do this sort of work; they merely attract their normal daily fee for that $8,000. That is our estimate. The only additional cost to that will be the cost of the daily fee for our members who go along to the various sessions.

SENATOR MACDONALD -I see you are looking at the Aboriginal community in particular. Is there any specific program there?

MR SCHULZ -That is yet to be developed, but it is recognised that we need to do specific work in that area.

SENATOR MACDONALD -How long has the committee been going?

MR SCHULZ -It was set up late last year. To date, it has been engaged in activities in those three areas that I have mentioned. Many of those sessions have already been set up.

SENATOR MACDONALD -Is that one of the improvements that the $200 fee will fund this year?

MR SCHULZ -No, we are paying for this work of the access committee out of our existing funding arrangements.