Privacy Law and Policy Reporter
The Administrative Review Council (ARC) has been requested by the Minister for Justice to undertake a comprehensive review of the Commonwealth system of merits review tribunals, including the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) and the various specialist tribunals that review administrative decisions in areas such as social security (SSAT), veterans' affairs (VRB), student assistance (SART), immigration (IRT) and refugees (RRT).
The issues paper includes consideration of privacy issues in [5.141]-[5.147], noting the distinction between those tribunals that adopt the administrative model, where information is generally regarded as private and confidential, and those that adopt the judicial model, where the privacy of parties and witnesses is generally overridden by the public interest in public justice. While all these tribunals are subject to the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth), the position is complicated by provisions which require public hearings (AAT) or publication of decisions (AAT, IRT, RRT), and by secrecy provisions. The discussion paper points out that all Tribunals have powers which override the non-disclosure provisions in the Privacy Act, and that supposed obstacles imposed by the Privacy Act are often the result of misunderstanding of its provisions.
The ARC's closing date for submissions on these and other issues is 23 December 1994