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State-based AAT to centralise expertise

DOZENS of tribunals, boards and referees are expected to disappear under State Government plans to create WA’s own administrative appeals tribunal.

Even ministerial appeals for matters such as town planning decisions will be ended, if WA Attorney-General Jim McGinty’s move to establish an AAT is successful.

Mr McGinty refers to the AAT as a fourth tier of government, which will be modelled on the system in place in Victoria.

“It will deal with appeals against government decision-making,” Mr McGinty said.

The move, which will pool and centralise expertise and control of appeals against all manner of decisions, will affect hundreds of people, with numerous boards and tribunals set to be consigned to history.

It is likely the Finance Brokers Supervisory Board, which came in for heavy criticism during the recent scandal, would no longer deal with complaints from investors if the AAT gets up and running. Mr McGinty, however, said he was waiting to see the recommendations of Ian Temby, who is running the royal commission into that sector.

In fact, the Labor Party intends to leave intact the powers of just two of the existing plethora of regulatory, professional, occupational and administrative groups.

Industrial relations, including Workcover matters and environmental appeals will remain with their respective tribunals.

Mr McGinty said that the move would not save money but would make appeals more efficient and fairer by streamlining the procedure.

He said sufficient expertise from the many specialist fields involved would be retained.

“At the moment they are all doing their own thing and you get variable standards,” Mr McGinty said.

It was likely a person at the level of Supreme Court judge would preside over the new AAT, which had Cabinet approval as a concept.

However, Mr McGinty was prepared for that fact that some people in the existing system would not favour change.

“There will be some resistance to change,” he said.

The sweeping changes also will reduce the ability for political appointments, he said.

“I think by centralising in one quasi-judicial body we will overcome that.”

The creation of the AAT was a recommendation by a Law reform Commission committee chaired by Michael Barker QC.

LRC chairman Professor Ralph Simmonds said that, while not everyone agreed with the concept of a State-based AAT, there were strong reasons for the change.

“It tries to make systematic the process of review of decisions by agencies,” he said.

“There are a number of time and expertise advantages in centralising things.”

Professor Simmonds said the ability for the AAT to review the merits of a previous administrative decision was a key element in the concept put forward by the LRC and would dramatically change the appeal process.

“Courts will not do that, they will only look to see if it was wrong in law,” he said.

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