On June 1, Crikey ominously reported that Attorney-General George Brandis intended to cull the membership of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal because of a campaign by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and News Corp newspapers over migration decisions that were unfavourable to the federal government. Twenty-eight days later and Brandis confirmed that report by announcing yesterday 60 appointments and reappointments to the body, which is the independent reviewer of Commonwealth government decisions.
Significantly and disturbingly from the perspective of the AAT’s independence, a number of the appointments made by Brandis are former Liberal Party staffers and members. They include former candidates Hollie Hughes and Nicholas McGowan, and former Abbott government staffers Helena Claringbold and Ann Brandon-Baker. Brandis’ habit of appointing Liberal Party colleagues to the AAT is not a recently acquired one. Last year, he gave former MPs Russell Matheson and Andrew Nikolic -- who lost their seats in the July federal election -- roles on the AAT, along with a Liberal Party donor and Brisbane lawyer Theo Tavoularis.