Streamlined arrangements for external merits review

13 May 2014

The Abbott Government announced today its intention to streamline and simplify Australia’s external merits review system. The reforms will remove unnecessary layers of bureaucracy and deliver an improved and simplified merits review system for all Australians. This is in line with the Coalition’s commitment to streamline government and reduce duplication to deliver efficient, effective government.  The measure is expected to save $20.2 million over four years.

From 1 July 2015, key Commonwealth external merits review agencies will be amalgamated—namely, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), Migration Review Tribunal and Refugee Review Tribunal, Social Security Appeals Tribunal and the Classification Review Board. Merits review of Freedom of Information (FOI) matters, currently undertaken by the Office of the Australian Information Commission (OAIC), will also be transferred to the AAT from 1 January 2015.

The merger of merits review agencies will provide an accessible “one stop shop” for external merits review and will ensure that end-users have a review option that is fair, less confusing, just, economical, informal and quick. 

Most states and territories have now established a similar ‘super tribunal’ for merits review, with considerable success.

The complex and multilevel merits review system for FOI matters has contributed to significant processing delays. Simplifying and streamlining FOI review processes by transferring these functions from the OAIC to the AAT will improve administrative efficiencies and reduce the burden on FOI applicants. The AAT will receive a funding boost to assist with the backlog and to better meet acceptable timeframes

Under the new arrangements, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner will be established as a separate statutory office and will continue to be responsible for the exercise of statutory functions under the Privacy Act 1988 and related legislation.

The Government acknowledges the valuable contribution of Professor John McMillan AO as the Australian Information Commissioner and Dr James Popple as the Freedom of Information Commissioner and the staff of the OAIC.

The Government is committed to an external merits review system that is more efficient, less complicated and more effective.

The Budget is part of the Government’s Economic Action Strategy to build a strong, prosperous economy and a safe, secure Australia.