Tribunal Member: Chris Puplick

Marriage celebrants are required to pay an annual registration fee. The applicant is a marriage celebrant and his registration was cancelled by the Registrar of Marriage Celebrants (the Registrar) after a failure to pay his fee. The applicant was no longer allowed to authorise marriages and his details were removed from the Register of Marriage Celebrants.

The Registrar may commence deregistering a celebrant who fails to pay their fee as soon as practicable. [1] When advised that his deregistration would take place as soon as practicable,  the applicant submitted that the Registrar had failed to provide him with a fair go because they failed to provide a precise date of deregistration. [2] The applicant asked the AAT to review the Registrar’s decision about the date of the applicant’s deregistration.

The AAT accepted the applicant’s argument that the provision in the Act was ‘imprecise and ambiguous’. However, the AAT reiterated that it was intended to be a flexible provision, partly to ensure that booked marriage ceremonies were not impacted by a strict deregistration of celebrants.

The AAT commented that whilst it cannot interfere with the administrative practices of the Registrar, the establishment of a formal policy by the Registrar would ensure that applications such as this could be avoided. The AAT suggested that the Registrar consider a policy which revives an older system of sending SMS notifications to the celebrants advising of their registration fee due date. The AAT also advised that the Registrar formalise their general rule of deregistering celebrants 21 days after sending a formal notice. The AAT accepted the Registrar’s submission that the appropriate course of action for it to take in this matter was to specify an exact date for the applicant’s deregistration to take effect.

The AAT decided to make a variation and ask the Registrar to issue the applicant with a notice of deregistration on the eighth business day after the publication of the AAT’s decision with the notice to take effect on and from the 21st day after that.

Read the full decision on AustLII.

 

[1] Section 39FB of the Marriage Act 1961

[2] This is otherwise known as procedural fairness. See Section 39FB(2)(a) of the Marriage Act 1961.