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Thank you to the AG on the Administrative Review Tribunal

21 March, 2024:

I would also like to thank the Attorney-General for the introduction of these amendments and being very open to consultation with the crossbench about these amendments. The Administrative Appeals Tribunal was one of the most important pillars of our democracy. It was abolished for very good reasons, and we thank the Attorney-General for the decision to do that. But it was abolished because it had been politicised and stacked with cronies. In doing so, the competence of this vitally important democratic institution had been undermined, the public's trust in this very important institution had been undermined and one of our democratic values had also been undermined. So it was critically important that the fatal flaw that led to it being abolished in the first place was addressed in the new iteration of the Administrative Review Tribunal.

As the member for Indi said, the first iteration of this bill did not address the independence of the appointments process. It did address 'merits based', and we thank the minister for that, but it did not address the independence. That was not sufficiently covered. There was no requirement for there to be the use of assessment panels. There was something in the bill that said assessment panels may be created from time to time, but there was no mandated assessment panel and it was not in the legislation. So we're very happy to see that there are now mandated assessment panels when members are being appointed to the tribunal and it is in the legislation. This is a very important step for our democracy going forward. We know that civil society has been calling for this, the crossbench has been calling for this and the Greens party has been calling for this. I would say I've also been calling for this type of independent appointments process to be taken up on a far greater basis in general. We can't continue to have appointments being made at the minister's discretion, because we know that, in particular, this type of flaw comes down to the politicisation of the appointments process. So it's vitally important that we have a robust and independent appointments process across all Commonwealth public appointments, and that's what my 'ending jobs for mates' bill is calling for. With any major Commonwealth appointment, there needs to be an independent process where assessment panels are used, independent selection panels are used and then the minister may choose from that shortlist. If that doesn't happen, then the minister needs to explain to the parliament why they have chosen from outside that shortlist. This is needed for the integrity of our democracy.

Trust in our political system is one of the biggest issues and was one of the biggest issues at the last election. Here on the crossbench, we have been fighting hard in many different ways to rebuild integrity and trust in our political system. I am hopeful that this move by the Attorney-General—and thank you very much—sets a precedent for future important appointments.

I would also say that I strongly support having a review in five years time. I think that's incredibly important as well. Now, with the new amendments, I also am able to give my full support to the Administrative Review Tribunal Bill 2023. I welcome it and welcome very much the work that the Attorney-General and his team have done on this. Thank you.