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Tuesday, 25 March 1980
Page: 941

Senator GRIMES (NEW SOUTH WALES) -I refer the AttorneyGeneral to his announcement that appeals against decisions of the Director-General of Social Services can go to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal from I April this year. I ask: What will be the composition of the Tribunal for the hearing of social service appeals and how will it reflect the community at large? Will such Tribunal be located in each capital city or just in Canberra? Will the Tribunal move around or will applicants have to travel to it? Will his Department fund welfare advocates to help those people who are appealing to prepare cases before the Tribunal.

Senator DURACK - The Administrative Appeals Tribunal will not be specially set up for hearing social security appeals. It will follow the usual practice. I understand that the President of the Tribunal intends to sit on some of the early appeals, that is, those appeals which may be in the nature of test cases. The composition of the Tribunal is as determined by the President. In many cases, the Tribunal comprises a presidential member or a senior non-presidential member sitting with two other members of panels. At the moment we are considering the appointment of additional members of the panel so that people will be present who will have some special qualifications in the social services area. They will then sit on the hearings of these appeals. That matter has not yet been finalised. However, it is intended that they should be appointed before any work is before the Tribunal. Of course, the President may and mostly will allocate to one of the senior non-presidential members of the Tribunal the work of presiding over appeals rather than doing it all himself.

As to the question of the sittings of the Tribunal in various States, I point out that it is intended that as far as possible the Tribunal will sit where the appellants reside. Certainly, the Tribunal will not be sitting only in Canberra but in all the capital cities. There is provision under section 69 of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act for applications to be made to the Attorney-General for legal aid in cases of hardship.

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