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ARC President --- "President's Comments" [2003] AdminRw 1; (2003) 55 Admin Review 3

President’s comments

This is the first edition of Admin Review with which I have been involved since my appointment as President of the Administrative Review Council in July 2002. I am pleased to say that, after a considerable break since publication of the last edition in September 2001, the Council has decided to continue to publish Admin Review annually. Indeed, publication might occur more frequently if developments in administrative law warrant it.

Admin Review is an important and effective means of highlighting the work of the Council and seeking your input into and assistance with current Council projects.

It is with sadness that I report the death on 11 March 2002 of my predecessor as President, Mrs Bettie McNee. Bettie was a valued colleague and friend to Council members and secretariat staff who worked with her. As President, she provided excellent leadership for the Council and displayed considerable courage as she continued to promote the Council’s interests, and administrative law values generally, despite her illness. A number of projects that had their origins in Bettie’s time as President have now come to fruition.

On 6 June 2002 the Council of Australasian Tribunals, or COAT, came into being. The Administrative Review Council supported the establishment of COAT and provided secretariat assistance to the implementing body over several months. The Council has since reported on COAT’s establishment; the report has been keenly sought by tribunals. Although the secretariat role has now been handed over to the Chief Executive Officer of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, the Council continues to have an interest in COAT and I, as President, am an ex officio member.

In the latter half of 2002 the Council revised two of its publications, Practical Guidelines for Preparing Statements of Reasons and the associated Commentary on the Practical Guidelines for Preparing Statements of Reasons. Originally published in 2000, these publications needed revision in the light of recent changes in case law and legislation. The Council also produced a report on the celebration of its 25th anniversary.

As part of a major project on the availability of judicial review, early in 2003 the Council published The Scope of Judicial Review, a discussion paper exploring the circumstances in which judicial review should be limited and how this might occur. The paper has been widely distributed in the hope of encouraging debate and attracting contributions from people with an interest in the subject. A focus article on the discussion paper appears in this edition of Admin Review.

Work continues on the Council’s project on automated assistance in administrative decision making, and on 19 June 2003 the Council published an issues paper for comment. The first focus article in this edition of Admin Review is a paper on the subject, by Christine Charles, chair of the Council’s subcommittee for the project.

Both the scope of judicial review and the automated assistance in decision making projects have generated considerable interest across government, academia and, in the case of the scope of judicial review, the courts.

The Council has recently begun work on projects involving examination of the coercive investigative powers of government agencies and exploring amendments to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975 and procedural discretions of review tribunals. It also continues its involvement in advising on the adequacy or otherwise of the administrative review decision–making processes provided for in proposed legislation. This has been of most benefit where agencies have sought the Council’s advice at an early stage in the legislative process.

Early this year Ron McLeod retired from his position as Commonwealth Ombudsman, and this edition of Admin Review contains a reflection on his term. As the record shows, in his work with agencies Ron made a substantial contribution to improving government administration. Ron was a respected and highly esteemed ex officio member and friend of the Council, and his contributions will be missed.

The interest in Council projects and the increased number of Commonwealth agencies seeking the Council’s advice are testimony to the valuable role the Council plays in ensuring that administrative law remains true to its values of lawfulness, fairness, rationality, openness and efficiency. These values—and indeed administrative law itself—are perhaps even more important now than they were some 25 years ago, when the Council was created. Administrative decisions by government continue to affect all Australians. The Council will continue to review the Commonwealth administrative law system and make recommendations for improving it.

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