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Friday, January 16, 2009

Long lost review sort of surfaces, four years late.

A little reflection over the weekend led to a few additions to this item first posted last Friday.

You have to hand it to the NSW Attorney General and his Department when it comes to leaving few footprints in the exercise of some statutory responsibilities. Alerted by a comment in the Administrative Decisions Tribunal Annual Report 2007-2008, that the Government was expected to finally publish and act in spring 2008 on a review of the Tribunal's Act, mandated for 2004, the following emerged after quite a bit of digging.

If you happened across the details of documents tabled in Parliament you find the parliamentary records state the statutory review was dated June 2007 and tabled in Parliament on 3 June 2008. ( For some reason can't get the link working but it says it was tabled in the Legislative Council by Mr Roozendaal on that date).This was news to me and clearly to President O'Connor of the Tribunal who had a major interest. On 19 October 2008 he had signed off on his annual report with this comment about the review:
"The second review (under s 147) was imposed on the Minister. The Act fixed the commencement date as 2002 and the report date as 2003. On behalf of the Minister, the Department commenced the review in 2003. The public submissions process ended in 2004. That report is now expected to be delivered in the Spring Session, 2008 ( emphasis added) in conjunction with a bill making a number of amendments to the ADT Act."
The 2007 date on the report provides no clue that it should have been completed and tabled in 2004. But we know it took three years to complete and a further year for the Attorney General to table it in Parliament.

Given his comment in the annual report it would have been news also for President O'Connor on 19 October that the Attorney General had introduced the Administrative Decisions Tribunal Amendment Bill 2008 on 24 September 2008. In his second reading speech the Attorney General said:
"Members will be aware of the recently tabled statutory review of the Administrative Decisions Tribunal Act. The review concluded that the policy objectives of the Act remain valid. The review also made recommendations for amendments to the Act with the intention of improving the tribunal's operational efficiency. This bill gives effect to the recommended legislative changes in the statutory review as well as making other amendments to enhance the operational efficiency of the tribunal."
In his speech the Attorney General made no mention of the fact that the review report was years late.

Parliamentary debate followed in October with seven speakers in total in the two houses of parliament but it was pretty clear that few had paid much attention to the issues. None including the shadow Attorney General DPP Greg Smith said a word about the timing of the report.(Legislative Council debate on 21 October( see time indicator 3.19 pm); Legislative Assembly debate on 22 October (time indicator 5.22 pm)). The Legislation Review Committee in its report on the Bill made no comment about the Attorney General's failure to comply with a statutory duty.

As to the review report itself, it's still not published on the web and the Attorney hasn't said anything about it in media releases on the Attorney General's website.There is no sign of the report where you might expect to find it, on the Legislation and Policy Division pages of the Department's website.It's all a like the review of privacy legislation which was years late and only published last year after some observers pressured the Department to do so.

How many other parliamentary mandated reviews like these just don't get done or acted upon by NSW ministers, as stipulated? If the ADT Act review is any guide no-one in Parliament pays any attention to such matters.

As to public availability of such reports, the Rees Government's commitment to pro-active publication doesn't appear to have quite got through to AGs.

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