The Honourable Philip Ruddock MP
Attorney-General of Australia
Speech delivered to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal's 30th Anniversary Dinner, Canberra
2 August 2006
First, may I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land we meet on - the Ngunnawal People - and pay my respects to their elders, both past and present.
Chair - The Hon Justice Garry Downes
The Hon Murray Gleeson AC
The Hon Sir Gerard Brennan AC KBE
Ladies and gentlemen
Let me start by thanking the President of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, the Hon Justice Garry Downes, for inviting me to say a few words at tonight's 30th anniversary dinner.
I was in Parliament 30 years ago when the legislation establishing the AAT was passed.
So I am particularly pleased to have been given this opportunity to reflect on how the AAT has become an integral part of Australia's legal system.
The Importance of Administrative Law
As you know, administrative law is about the rule of law - about ensuring that government decision-makers are accountable, and that the decision-making processes are fair and transparent.
The Commonwealth tribunals that review the merits of such decisions play a crucial role in maintaining public confidence in the system as a whole, and upholding the principles of open and accountable government.
Australia's System of Administrative Law
Our system of administrative law is one of the fairest and most sophisticated of any common law country - and the AAT sits at its peak.
Since it opened on the 1st of July 1976, the AAT has grown from what some saw as a rather radical initiative, to become a highly successful and respected Australian institution.
A Senate Committee report released last year described the AAT as having an impeccable reputation (1).
This reputation has been well earned, and it brings credit to the entire Australian justice system.
International Interest in the AAT
In fact, the AAT's reputation has attracted attention from jurists and academics around the world.
For example, Australia's administrative law system, and the AAT, featured prominently in the major tribunal reform project that was recently undertaken in the United Kingdom.
The UK reforms drew on the experience of the AAT as Australia's top-tier administrative review tribunal.
The concept of 'merits review', and the extensive use of alternative dispute resolution in the AAT were also of particular interest to the UK.
This is a great endorsement.
The AAT - rightly - leads the world in administrative law innovation and best practice.
This is an achievement that we should be celebrating.
So let me finish by expressing my congratulations to the AAT on its first - very successful - 30 years, and by extending my best wishes for the next - even more successful - 30 years.
- Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee: 'a reputation [that] is impeccable'.