Attorney-General George Brandis released a slew of new names he is appointing to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal last week, and we have discovered quite a few have long connections to the Liberal Party.

Brandis announced 64 appointments or re-appointments to the AAT, with most commencing from July 1. Omitted from the announcement was that more than 50 of those with their terms expiring at the end of June will not be reappointed, with the vast majority of those in the migration division of the AAT.

Crikey first revealed at the start of this month that dozens of those appointees would not have their terms extended after extended criticism from the government — in particular from Immigration Minister Peter Dutton —  for the Migration Tribunal’s rulings to overturn Dutton’s decisions on cancelling visas. Dutton said on 3AW in May that the decision overturn rate was likely to change once new appointments were made.

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“This government’s made a number of decisions not to renew the appointments of some of the AAT members that may have been appointed in the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years and in some cases we’ve made fresh appointments ourselves. So that success rate if you like or the rejection rate will change over time,” he said.

The government is also expected to introduce legislation that would make it easier for Dutton to overrule the AAT.

One of those who did not have her term renewed was Miriam Holmes, a senior member of the AAT whose decision to overturn the deportation of Jagdeep Singh, a Melbourne taxi driver who pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting a woman, was then reversed by Dutton.  Those who were spared the axe include former Liberal staffer David McCulloch and former Liberal candidate in Victoria Nick McGowan. Others, listed below, were promoted.

Some of the already-reported controversial new appointments for the lucrative government jobs include failed NSW Liberal Senate candidate Hollie Hughes and Sydney University Liberal Club lifetime member Justin Owen, but here are a few more Liberal connections.

New Appointments

Ian Berry

We understand this is the same Ian Berry who held the state seat of Ipswich from 2012 to 2015 under the Liberal National government in Queensland.

Perrohean Sperling

Perrohean (also known as Perry) Sperling has a held several roles across the public service and various advisory bodies, and she was a senior adviser to prime minister John Howard. We’ve found nothing to suggest she is or ever has been a Liberal Party member.


Rachel Westaway

Westaway is an existing AAT member who has been promoted to senior member. She ran as a Liberal candidate for the NSW upper house in the 2003 state election, when she was known as Rachel Creek.

Michael Cooke

This former adviser to Tony Abbott was already a member of the AAT, and he has been promoted to senior status.

Ann Brandon-Baker

The former chief of staff to Philip Ruddock and Scott Morrison has also been promoted to senior member status.

Crikey asked the Attorney-General’s Office to comment on the background of these appointments, but we received no response.

We’ll keep looking into all the appointments and reappointments. Have we missed any? Know more? Let us know.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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