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Administrative Review Council's 25th anniversary, the Lobby Restaurant, Canberra.



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The Hon Daryl Williams AM QC MP Attorney-General

Administrative Review Council’s 25th Anniversary

The Lobby Restaurant, Canberra

7.00pm, Thursday 6 December 2001

Introduction

1. It is a pleasure to be here this evening to celebrate the 25th anniversary

of the Administrative Review Council.

2. The Council first met on 15 December 1976 in the midst of a great deal

of administrative law activity.

3. We have already heard tonight from the Attorney-General at that time,

the Hon Robert Ellicott QC 1.

At the first Council meeting, Mr Ellicott noted that the AAT had been

established for 5 months and the appointment of the first Ombudsman -Professor Jack Richardson who will address us later - was imminent.

He noted that legislation to establish a simplified system of judicial

review was being drafted and the Federal Court was to commence

operation in February 1977.

He also noted that freedom of information legislation was proposed and

the Law Reform Commission was conducting an inquiry to ‘ensure that

there was no excessive intrusion into privacy by governmental bodies’.

4. It was clearly a dynamic time in the administrative law arena and indeed

in other areas of the law.

5. In the last 25 years, the Commonwealth’s system of administrative

review has become well-accepted.

1 Mr Ellicott’s message to be read by Mr Wayne Martin QC at the start of the dinner

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Australian citizens have recourse to a number of avenues of

administrative review that we now take for granted.

6. The Council has clearly made a valuable contribution to this

administrative law system.

7. It is also important to ensure that the system evolves to keep pace with

changing times.

8. The Council has recognised this need and has recently embarked on an

examination of the use of technology in Government decision-making.

9. I look forward to the results of that inquiry.

10. The Hon Sir Gerard Brennan AC KBE - who was the first President of

the Council and the first President of the Administrative Appeals

Tribunal - will address us later.

Another ex officio member of the Council at its inception was the then

President of the Law Reform Commission, the Hon Justice Michael

Kirby, from whom we will also hear tonight.

11. In the foreword to the Council’s First Annual Report in 1977, the then

Justice Brennan wrote:

“… the structures of administrative review will

inevitably produce changes in the citizen’s

relationship with government and in the workings of

the machinery of government. Changes of these kinds

will not be effected without the development of

tensions, but the tensions should produce constructive

and critical examination of the new system”.

12. Justice Brennan’s comments in 1977 are just as true today as they were

then.

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13. Represented here tonight is a cross-section of views.

We will disagree from time to time, but that is the strength of a

democracy.

Functions and work of the Council

14. The Council is established as a permanent, independent body.

Its operation is enshrined in legislation.

15. The Council can undertake inquiries on its own motion as well as report

on matters at my request.

16. Its functions and powers to investigate administrative practices were

extended by the Government in 1999.

17. Broadly speaking, those additional functions include keeping the

Commonwealth administrative law system under review and inquiring

into the adequacy of procedures used by Commonwealth authorities to

ensure that administrative decisions are made in a just and equitable

manner.

18. The conferral of those new functions followed recommendations made

by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee in its

inquiry into the Council.

19. The Committee’s report recognised that the Council has been an

effective body, providing useful and timely advice on administrative

review matters.

20. The Council is well-placed to advise the Government on administrative

law issues because of the quality of its membership and the fact that it

can take a whole-of-government approach to issues.

21. The Government supports the independence of the Council and its work.

The continued high calibre of appointments made to the Council is clear

evidence of this support.

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22. On this note, I would like to take the opportunity to pass on to the

Council the Prime Minister’s best wishes.

23. Whilst the Prime Minister is unable to be present tonight, he has asked

me to thank the many individuals who have been Council members over

the last 25 years.

24. He also congratulates the Council for the substantial contribution that

the Council continues to make to the development of our system of

administrative review.

25. I note that it was, in fact, Mr Howard who, in 1975, originally suggested

the amendments to the AAT Bill that would lead to the establishment of

the Council.

Government’s consideration of Council reports

26. The Government always carefully considers the Council’s work, even if

it is not as quickly as the Council would prefer.

27. I am keen to progress again the Legislative Instruments Bill - a proposal

which originates from the Council’s report on ‘Rule Making by

Commonwealth Agencies’.

28. A Legislative Instruments Bill would provide a comprehensive regime

to improve standards for the drafting, scrutiny and accessibility of

delegated legislation.

29. It would also require appropriate consultation to be undertaken in the

formulation of legislative instruments, and allow such instruments to be

regularly reviewed.

30. Since I have been Attorney-General, the Council has published on a

range of issues, including guidelines for preparing statements of

reasons, a best practice guide on internal review of agency decision-making, a guide to standards of conduct for tribunal members and a

report on the contracting out of government services.

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31. The Council has made a valuable contribution to the debate on these and

other issues.

32. Just because all the Council’s recommendations are not accepted by the

Government does not mean that they are ignored.

33. The Council’s work contributes to the debate within Government and

the broader community on particular issues, whether it is ultimately

implemented or not.

34. For example, in 1995, in its publication ‘Better Decisions: Review of

Commonwealth Merits Tribunals’, the Council called for the unification

of existing merits review tribunals into a single tribunal.

35. The Administrative Review Tribunal Bill 2001 adopted many of the

recommendations from that Report.

36. As you would all be aware, the Council’s Report formed a backdrop for

much vigorous debate regarding that Bill.

Such debate can only be in the public interest.

Conclusion

37. I look forward to my ongoing relationship with the Council and to the

continued high quality of its work.

38. I would also like to personally thank all Council members - both present

and past members - for their advice to successive Governments and for

their contribution to our administrative law system.

39. I wish you all an enjoyable evening as you reflect on the past and

consider the future.