The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) has revealed almost 200 of its decision-makers appointed to the tribunal over the past few years were not legal practitioners. 

For those who missed it (where have you been?) a 10-part Inq investigation recently revealed the Liberal Party has spent the last six years stacking the AAT with 65 former politicians, staffers, donors and supporters. 

The AAT wouldn’t respond to our detailed questions over members’ individual CVs or lack of legal qualifications. 

But Labor Senator Kim Carr took up the fight in Senate estimates last week in response to Inq’s series, demanding to know how many of those appointed to the tribunal in the last few years lack legal qualifications. 

Under the AAT Act, to be appointed as one of the tribunal’s 333 non-judicial members, you must be an enrolled legal practitioner of five years or be deemed to have some “special knowledge or skills relevant”. It’s this second clause that has allowed the government to slot friends and supporters into decision-making roles. 

The Attorney-General’s office returned with answers to Carr’s question just before the estimates hearing closed at 11pm, revealing that, out of the 417 appointments and reappointments made since July 1 2015, 183 were appointed on the basis of “special knowledge and skills”. 

Earlier in the day, Liberal Senator Amanda Stoker, chair of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, had raised concern over the fact Senator Carr was citing from a “Crikey report”, prompting this exchange:

Stoker: If you are going to refer to media reports, yes, please provide those for the witness… Particularly given it is a Crikey report!

Carr: Do you mean to say it’s, what, illegitimate? Is that the suggestion?

Stoker: I mean to suggest that it’s very important that we ensure reliability. 

Hopefully the AAT’s response will quash her concerns. 

NOTE: This story has been updated to correct the source of answers to Carr’s question.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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