Last updated 20 May 2022
A statement of reasons will often accompany the decision, and will assist the affected person to understand how the decision was made, reasons for the decision and the options for review. A statement of reasons serves an important administrative law function in ensuring governmental transparency. In producing reasons, the government entity must demonstrate that a lawful decision has been made.
A person who is entitled to seek a review by AAT under an enabling Act or Regulation may make a written request for reasons of the decision (s 28 AAT Act). It is not necessary for the person requesting the reasons to have commenced proceedings in the AAT, the right to request reasons is a standalone right.
The statement should:
- be in writing
- set out the findings on material questions of fact
- refer to evidence or other material on which the finds were based
- give reasons for the decision (s28(1) AAT Act).
However, there is no universal form for a statement of reasons. The characteristics of an individual decision will essentially determine the material to be set out in a statement of reasons.
If written notification of the decision was received but no reasons accompanied the decision, a request for the reasons for the decision must be made within 28 days after the written notification was received. Otherwise, a request must be made within a reasonable time.
Where a request is made, the reasons must be provided within 28 days. Where the request is refused, including because the decision maker is of the view that the applicant is not entitled to the statement or did not make the request within time, a response must be provided within 28 days.
Where a request is refused on the basis that the applicant is not entitled to reasons, the applicant can apply to the AAT for an order that written reasons be provided (s 28(1AC) AAT Act). An applicant may also apply to the AAT for a declaration that the statement is inadequate (s 28(5) AAT Act). The AAT may then order the decision maker to amend an insufficient statement of reasons (s 28 (6) AAT Act).
Reasons may be refused if the Attorney-General certifies that disclosure would be contrary to the public interest. Certain reviewable decisions are also excluded from the requirement including first review decisions in relation to child support, paid parental leave and social security (Centrelink) decisions (s 28 (1AAA) AAT Act).
In circumstances in which an applicant is not entitled to a statement of reasons, information about the decision may be sought under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) (see Complaints against Government—Administrative Law).