In 1983 the South Australian Law Reform Commission recommended the establishment of a State Administrative Appeals Body. It has been a long time coming but it now appears that a "Super Tribunal" is imminent.
It will be a one stop shop for dealing with administrative decisions which are currently spread across a number of different agencies including:
- the Guardianship Board of South Australia;
- the Housing Appeal Panel;
- the Residential Tenancies Tribunal and the like.
In a recent budget press release the Premier and Treasurer announced the commitment and said "South Australians should not have to spend hours researching how to make a complaint about a decision of a government agency".
It will be a single, easy to use, easy to find office with simple and consistent processes. It should be operating in the first quarter of 2014 with a staged process after that of folding in the various government boards as they presently stand.
The model has been in existence in Victoria and Western Australia and other parts of the country for some time. Having made this announcement the next step is implementation which still requires the following:
- the passage of bill through Parliament;
- the appointment of the President of the Tribunal; and
- the passage of statutes.
As to where the Tribunal is to be located there has been some speculation that the Sturt Street Courts will be "redesigned" to accommodate the Tribunal.
While there are obviously many unknowns, accessibility will be an important feature in order to make a Super Tribunal attractive. There is no reason why a proposal like this should not be given general support by the whole community. South Australia has waited too long for this important reform and it is a big step towards access to justice for people.
Whilst legal representation before the Super Tribunal will not be mandatory, lawyers will be able to represent clients at the time of hearing. This will be important especially in relation to complex matters. In those instances, choosing a lawyer with experience in administrative law matters will be of importance.