Abolition of AAT a Welcome Step Towards Integrity

The Australia Institute’s Democracy & Accountability Program welcomes Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus’ announcement of the abolition and replacement of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), which fulfills a recommendation made in the Institute’s research earlier this year.

The Australia Institute research revealed political appointments to the AAT skyrocketed from 6 in 100 under John Howard, to 2 in 5 under Scott Morrison, in what is the largest analysis of its kind into political cronyism in Australia, published shortly before the May 2022 election.


Australia Institute research has found:

  • AAT political appointments were as high as 40% under the 2019-2022 Morrison Government, up from 6% under Howard, 5% under Rudd/Gillard.
  • AAT Senior Members who are political appointments are much more likely to have no legal qualifications than Senior Members who are non-political appointments (26% vs 1%).
  • Political appointees were more likely to be appointed on a full-time basis (47% of political appointees) than non-political appointees (22%).
  • 10 recommendations to fix the administrative review system, which together amount to a spill of positions in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and a new appointments process that is open and transparent.

“The Attorney-General should be commended for grasping the nettle on this urgently-needed integrity reform,” said Bill Browne, Democracy & Accountability program director at the Australia Institute.

“A pattern of political appointments to the AAT, particularly in the last nine years, has undermined confidence in the tribunal and made a complete overhaul necessary.

“The AAT is responsible for reviewing life-changing decisions, like deportations, NDIS payments, child support, visas, veterans’ entitlements and Commonwealth workers’ compensation, which means its members must be totally above reproach.

“Whatever body replaces the AAT must be robust and independent, and that means the AAT’s replacement must be carefully designed with an open and transparent appointment process that ensures only qualified, independent members are appointed.”

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