Cronyism in appointments to the AAT

An empirical analysis
by Deb Wilkinson and Elizabeth Morison

This study, the largest and most comprehensive domestic study of the practice of cronyism in relation to appointments to a government agency ever conducted, finds there has been a sharp rise in the proportion of political appointments to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) during the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison administration.

In the study, political appointments were defined as the appointment of people who, prior to appointment, had worked for a political party with representation at the federal level in either a paid or voluntary capacity. This included those who had worked as elected representatives, advisers or other staffers, party officials, candidates, pre-selection candidates or for party-affiliated organisations.

In the Howard and Rudd/Gillard/Rudd administrations, political appointees accounted for 6 and 5 per cent of all appointees respectively. By contrast, during the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison administration, political appointees accounted for 32 per cent of all new appointments.

Within the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison administration, political appointments were highest during the second Morrison ministry (see Figure 1). They climbed from 23 per cent of all appointments during the 2013–2016 Abbott/Turnbull Government to 35 per cent during the 2016–2019 Turnbull/Morrison Government to 40 per cent during the 2019–2022 Morrison Government. In the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison era, a total of 236 appointments were made.

Full report