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Ruddock, Philip --- "The 30th Anniversary: a Congratulatory Note" [2007] AdminRw 2; (2007) 58 Admin Review 11

The 30th anniversary: a congratulatory note

The Hon. Philip Ruddock MP

Commonwealth Attorney-General

I would like to congratulate the Administrative Review Council on its 30th anniversary. In doing so, I would also like to acknowledge the contributions of the 90 members who have served on the Council since its beginning in 1976.

Throughout its history, the Council’s membership has included respected members of the senior public service, the legal profession, the business, industrial relations and welfare sectors, leading academics, and defence representatives.

The Council has been enriched by the diversity and combined expertise of its members, all of whom I congratulate for their part in the Council’s 30‑year history. In that time, the Council has produced 47 reports on a wide range of administrative law topics.

It is an impressive record, and there are no signs of slowing down. In fact, when the Council launched its 47th report—The Scope of Judicial Review—in Sydney earlier in 2006 I was pleased to have had the opportunity to participate. I understand that the Council’s 48th report, on the coercive information-gathering powers of Commonwealth agencies, is also nearing completion. Also on the ARC’s drawing board is a series of best-practice guideline publications in conjunction with the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs [now the Department of Immigration and Citizenship]. For use by all government agencies, the publications will be supplemented by materials of particular relevance to DIMA. That the Council can produce ‘easy to read’ practical materials as well as publications with in-depth analysis of complex legal issues only adds to its value.

The ARC’s future

The discussion stimulated by the ARC’s 30th anniversary provides some fascinating insights into likely issues and challenges for administrative law in the future from five key perspectives, including an international update on developments in the United Kingdom.

I have recently provided the Council with terms of reference for a further report—number 49. The report will consider the relationship between administrative law and business regulation.

As you may know, the Government is committed to reducing red tape. I anticipate that this latest project will offer invaluable guidance on improving the efficiency of business regulation, while maintaining appropriate safeguards for administrative review and protecting individual rights.

This issue—the tension between administrative efficiency and administrative review—is not new. It was highlighted by the Kerr Committee in 1971 and is just as important today. As the ARC embarks on its business regulation project, this balance is likely to again be a central issue.

The reason I make this point is to note that, while this seminar has largely focused upon the future, administrative law’s past is equally important. While new challenges will arise in the future, the fundamental values of our administrative law system will remain.

The challenge—and it is a challenge that I have no doubt that the ARC will continue to meet—will be to adapt the values and principles that have been espoused in the past to new contexts.

Over the past 30 years the ARC has promoted the values of lawfulness, fairness, rationality, openness and transparency, and efficiency in many different contexts. These range from judicial review to social security, taxation, migration, environmental decisions, contracting out of government services, and the use of computer technology in decision making. In the next 30 years the ARC will probably revisit some areas and will also branch into new ones. I am sure that the Council will keep pace with our changing society.

The implementation of the administrative law package, including the ARC, in the 1970s was a very significant point in Australia’s legal history. And in 2006 the Council plays just as important a role as it did in 1976. With such a well-entrenched and respected place in our administrative law system, I have no doubt that the ARC will continue to provide valuable contributions to the future of administrative law.

Once again, congratulations, ARC, on reaching this 30-year milestone. It is a great achievement.

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