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|Title:||Amalgamating tribunals: a recipe for optimal reform|
|Keywords:||administrative law;administrative tribunals;organisational change;tribunal reform;tribunal amalgamation;super tribunals|
|Publisher:||University of Sydney. Law|
|Abstract:||The last decade has seen numerous proposals to reform existing tribunal systems in jurisdictions throughout the common law world. Across the board, there have been proposals to adopt generalist tribunal models in preference to smaller, specialist tribunal systems, and to achieve these changes through the process of amalgamation. The most significant recent developments to occur in Australia have taken place in Victoria and NSW during the past five years. Legislators in these States have chosen to amalgamate a number of smaller, specialist tribunals into larger, generalist bodies. In 1997 the NSW Parliament passed legislation amalgamating a number of specialist tribunals to create the Administrative Decisions Tribunal (ADT); comparable legislation was passed in Victoria in 1998 to create the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). There were concurrent attempts to implement similar reforms at federal level. In 1998 the Commonwealth government announced its intention to amalgamate four Commonwealth merits review tribunals to form one �super Tribunal� � the Administrative Review Tribunal (ART). The Bills containing these proposals were ultimately defeated in the Senate, however the Australian Government remains convinced of the benefits of amalgamation at federal level. Similar reforms have been proposed in Western Australia, Tasmania and the United Kingdom. This thesis argues that these reforms are taking place in the absence of data about their likely implications, and without a thorough understanding of the objectives that generalist versus specialist tribunal systems can realistically achieve. This ill-considered or �over-hasty� trend towards amalgamation raises a number of questions which have not previously been addressed in academic or policy-making circles. An obvious question is whether or not an amalgamated tribunal model is more effective than a series of smaller, specialised tribunals in delivering administrative justice, in other words, whether there is any net gain to be had from a government�s decision to amalgamate. The less explored, but equally important, question addressed in this thesis is how the process of amalgamation should be approached in order to realise the maximum potential benefits that an amalgamated tribunal can bring. That is, to ask what are the ingredients of an optimal amalgamation. This is not a question about whether government decisions to pursue amalgamation are intrinsically worthwhile or beneficial for stakeholders. Rather, it is about how government decisions to amalgamate should best be implemented. This thesis proposes a way of differentiating between good and bad amalgamations, that is grounded in theory and informed by experience to date. The proposed approach is to assess the effectiveness of amalgamation processes using relevant measures drawn from an analysis of organisational theory literature: � Legislation � the legislation establishing an amalgamated tribunal needs to ensure the tribunal will have appropriate independence, powers, processes, membership and structure. � Political commitment � those responsible for proposing and planning an amalgamation need to provide appropriate funding and support for the process and for the establishment of an autonomous, self-directed tribunal. � Organisational structure � the structures put in place need to be appropriate, integrated and flexible, and should promote cohesion and interaction. � Process and procedure � the processes and procedures adopted in an amalgamated tribunal need to capitalise upon the opportunities provided by amalgamation, as well as being appropriate, efficient and able to balance the needs of a range of stakeholders. � Organisational culture � an organisational culture which counters natural tendencies towards disjunction will assist members and staff to identify with a newly amalgamated tribunal and to implement initiatives that will improve its performance. � Leadership � effective leadership plays an important role in ensuring a smooth transition from specialist to amalgamated tribunal, and engendering commitment from members and staff. Broadly speaking, these factors fall into the four categories of law, context, organisation and people. It is argued that attention must be paid to all four of these ingredients in order to achieve optimal tribunal reform. The thesis tests this proposition by examining the three most advanced tribunal amalgamations so far, namely, the Commonwealth ART, the NSW ADT and VCAT in Victoria. It is argued that the fate of the Commonwealth ART proposal proves the importance of a solid, generally endorsed legislative foundation in creating a viable amalgamated tribunal. The importance of context, organisation and people is borne out by qualitative research into the amalgamation experiences in NSW and Victoria. The fact that the NSW and Victorian governments decided to pursue policies of amalgamation at the same time provided a unique opportunity to compare the success or otherwise of two concurrent attempts at amalgamation in different jurisdictions. This thesis finds that the unfavourable political context in NSW prevented the ADT from realising its potential. In contrast, the VCAT experience highlights the benefits of paying careful attention to the wide range of factors that can contribute to a successful amalgamation. Of most relevance are the initial scale of an amalgamation, the political �will� behind its implementation, the appointment of a core of full-time members, and the creation of an open institutional culture which facilitates the sharing of information. In short, the thesis concludes that the successful construction and consolidation of a tribunal post-amalgamation requires that the necessary ingredients of optimal tribunal reform � legislation, context, organisation and people � are thoughtfully addressed.|
|Rights and Permissions:||Copyright Bacon, Rachel;http://www.library.usyd.edu.au/copyright.html|
|Appears in Collections:||Sydney Digital Theses (Open Access)|
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