Last updated 25 July 2016

Before lodging a complaint about a government administrative decision, it is important to know which government is responsible for the decision, because different laws apply to the Commonwealth, state and local governments, and court proceedings must be started in the correct jurisdiction. An easy way to distinguish between Commonwealth, state and local government agencies is to ring the agency and ask which government controls it. Alternatively, ask the Commonwealth Ombudsman or state ombudsman.

Challenging Commonwealth decisions

Commonwealth Government action can be challenged by:

  • judicial review by the High Court of Australia
  • judicial review by the Federal Court of Australia
  • application for review to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) where permitted. Before an application is made, it is important to find out whether there is an internal review process provided for in the relevant department or authority. Any internal review mechanisms should ordinarily be exhausted before an application is made to the AAT or to a court for judicial review
  • complaint to the Commonwealth Ombudsman
  • complaint to the appropriate minister or member of parliament.

Challenging state decisions

State government action may be challenged by:

  • judicial review by the Supreme Court of Queensland
  • appeal to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT), provided that QCAT has jurisdiction over the decision. A small number of state bodies are not subject to review in QCAT (e.g. the Mental Health Tribunal and the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission)
  • complaint to the state ombudsman
  • complaint to the appropriate minister or member of parliament.

Challenging local government decisions

Administrative decisions made by local councils are subject to the rules of administrative law. In Queensland, the ultimate control of local councils rests with the Minister for Local Government, so complaints about the actions of local councils are dealt with under Queensland law.