Mark Dreyfus MP

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Senate Estimates Lays Bare The Morrison Government's Destruction of the AAT

26 October 2021

Former Attorney-General Christian Porter knowingly appointed a full-time lobbyist to the body that reviews Government decisions and appointed another person who made clear he did not want the appointment.

MARK DREYFUS
SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL
SHADOW MINISTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
 
SENATE ESTIMATES LAYS BARE THE MORRISON GOVERNMENT’S DESTRUCTION OF THE AAT

Former Attorney-General Christian Porter knowingly appointed a full-time lobbyist to the body that reviews Government decisions and appointed another person who made clear he did not want the appointment.
 
Today’s Senate Estimates questioning of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal has made clear just how much damage the Morrison Government has done to this vital democratic institution.
 
Over the past eight years successive Liberal Governments have appointed at least 79 former Liberal Party politicians and candidates, and former Liberal staffers and associates, as Members. 
 
In recent weeks, The Australian, the Herald Sun and the Australian Financial Review have reported that many of those Liberal-linked members have been failing to meet benchmarks set for them or, in some cases, not turning up for work at all.
 
Last year it was revealed former Liberal staffer Tony Barry had continued to work as a political lobbyist, while simultaneously being paid as a part-time member of the AAT reviewing government decisions.
 
Today, the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee heard that:

  • The former Attorney-General Christian Porter was told by his Department that a second potential member of the Tribunal was a senior Liberal Party-aligned lobbyist but Mr Porter appointed him anyway;
  • Mr Porter appointed a former Liberal Party candidate as a part-time member in November 2018 – even though the individual did not want to be appointed; and
  • Many of the individuals appointed to the Tribunal by the Morrison Government, some earning almost $500,000 per year, have been performing well below the benchmarks set for them.

Alarmingly, the Committee also heard that the office of the former Attorney-General, Christian Porter, edited the AAT’s responses to questions asked by Senator Kim Carr about the performance of Tribunal Members in late-2020 – and then submitted those edited responses without the Tribunal’s knowledge or consent.
 
Each year, tens of thousands of Australians rely on the tribunal to conduct an independent review of decisions by Commonwealth ministers and public servants. These decisions that can have life-altering impacts on people's lives, such as whether an older Australian receives an age pension, whether a veteran receives a service pension, whether a participant of the NDIS receives funding for essential support or whether a refugee obtains a visa. 
 
The Morrison Government doesn't care about those Australians. To the Morrison Government, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal is there to serve the interests of the Liberal Party and its mates, not the interests of Australians.
 
TUESDAY, 26 OCTOBER 2021