Administrative review in the NT (Northern Territory) refers to an application made to a court or tribunal to review on their merits administrative decisions made by government departments and officials. The NT is the latest jurisdiction to establish a super tribunal, known as the NT Civil and Administrative Tribunal, to conduct such reviews.
Merits review involves reviewing an administrative decision to decide whether the correct and preferable decision was made. There is a second kind of administrative review in the NT known as judicial review, which involves a court reviewing an administrative decision to check if it was made lawfully.
You can make an application for the judicial review of a government decision that applies to you to the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory.
The NT Civil and Administrative Tribunal
The NT Civil and Administrative Tribunal came into being on 6 October 2014. It was created following a series of reports by the NT Law Reform Committee, which said the administrative review procedures in the NT were too ad hoc. The rules for how it operates are in the NT Civil and Administration Tribunal Act 2014.
The intention is that it will become a ‘one stop shop’ for dealing with all administrative decision disputes. Currently, the kinds of administrative decisions it can review is limited (see below under ‘Merits review jurisdiction’), but this is expected to grow over the next 2 years to cover over one hundred pieces of legislation.
Merits review jurisdiction
As at April 2015, three separate Acts have been passed granting the NT Civil and Administrative Tribunal jurisdiction to conduct administrative review in the NT of administrative decisions (its review jurisdiction). The current scope of this jurisdiction can be found on the website of the Department of the Attorney-General and Justice. It currently includes, for example:
- decisions relating to granting poppy licences
- decisions made under the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act (for example, registering a change of name), and
- decisions made in relation to other forms of licensing such as liquor and gaming licensing.
Areas not already in the Tribunal’s jurisdiction are likely to be covered by another Tribunal. For example, State taxation decisions can be reviewed by the Taxation and Royalty Appeals Tribunal.
How the Tribunal conducts a merits review
Proceedings begin in the Tribunal when the person who wants an administrative decision reviewed lodges an ‘initiating application‘ with the Tribunal. You will know whether a decision can be reviewed by the Tribunal because the original decision-maker is required to tell you at the time of giving the decision.
After an initiating application is filed, the Tribunal may then require both parties to attend a mediation or compulsory conference to try and resolve the dispute. If this is unsuccessful, the Tribunal will hold a hearing, at which both parties can give evidence. The process of the hearing is subject to the requirements of the NT Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2014. The Rules Committee of the Tribunal has also created rules for the process of a hearing. The purpose of the hearing is for the Tribunal to make the correct and preferable decision on the merits of the case.
Rights of appeal
Unlike other jurisdictions such as NSW, decisions made by the Tribunal on an administrative review in the NT cannot be appealed internally. However, if you are unhappy with a decision of the Tribunal, you can apply to the Supreme Court of the NT to review it, but only on a question of law. You can only make such an application with the leave of the Supreme Court.
The process of establishing ‘super tribunals’ like the NT Civil and Administrative Tribunal is based on the Commonwealth model for reviewing administrative decisions. However, unlike the Commonwealth, some jurisdictions including the NT have decided not to pass laws explaining what judicial review is and how it is conducted. Instead, judicial review in the NT relies on the rules created by the common law.
Judicial review is the processing of reviewing a decision to make sure it was lawfully made. There are a number of common grounds for seeking judicial review, including there was an error of law by the decision-maker, or the decision-maker did not take into account relevant material. Other grounds can include the decision-maker did not have jurisdiction to make a particular decision, and the decision-maker improperly exercised their powers.
Supreme Court of the NT
Applications for judicial review are made to the Supreme Court of the NT. An application must be made within 60 days of the Tribunals’ decision. Other laws such as the Lands Acquisition Act provide specific rights to apply to the Supreme Court for judicial review.