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Tackling Big Government



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129.

• Tackling Big Government .

An article by the Attorney-General, Mr R.J. Ellicott Q.C.,

in the Sydney Sun . ·

Despite our free society, we are in fact being

threatened by the very institutions created to help us.

This is particularly so of "Big Government"— the

public service.

It is not enough to have an efficient, well-

intentioned public service. If you are affected by a

government decision you should have an opportunity to have

your grievance investigated.

At the least you need to feel you have been dealt

with fairly and you should be entitled to know the reasons

for the decision.

If you consider the decision to be wrong you

should be able to have it examined by an independent body,

and if found to be wrong to have it put right. ■

The Federal Government is very conscious of this,

and in the past 18 months has introduced three basic reforms,

to protect us all from "Big Government." .

The first Commonwealth ombudsman,

Professor Jack Richardson— who starts work on July 1— will

have power to investigate actions by Commonwealth public

servants.

Normally he will act as a result of your complaints

' but he can also act on his own initiative. He will have power

to enter departments and demand the files.

If he thinks your complaint is justified he can

recommend what action should be taken to put it right. He

will tell you what his decision is. If the department

doesn't put it right .he can report it to the Prime Minister

and the Parliament.

130.

Although he cannot compel the Department to

change its tune the threat of public exposure and

Parliamentary criticism will be a powerful stimulus.

So in future if you feel you have not been

promptly or properly dealt with by a Commonwealth public

servant you should complain to Professor Richardson.

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal was,

established last year. It hears appeals against decisions

which ministers and departments make under Federal law. '

Review by Courts

, It can hear appeals only where the law so ,

provides. It cannot act on its own initiative. But in

contrast to the ombudsman it can.overrule the decision

and substitute its own. ·

The tribunal can already hear appeals under a

wide range of legislation mainly in the business and

commercial area.

In due course it will hear appeals under the

Social Services Act and the Repatriation Act. It is being

reorganised for this task under a bill now before the

Parliament.

For a long time the law has permitted a citizen

to complain to the courts about a minister or public servant

if he has acted unlawfully.

But the procedures have become very complex and ■

expensive and the Government’s third reform is to simplify

these procedures and to allow the case to be taken quickly

to the new Federal court.

Most important, a person affected by a decision of

a Commonwealth public servant made .under a Federal law will

in future be entitled to call for reasons for the decision.

All these are basic long term reforms which your

Federal Government is implementing to protect the individual

citizen. You should know about them and, if necessary, take

advantage of them. . .

Sydney 1 June 1977 31a/77 .