Last updated 30 August 2016
If a person wishes to challenge a decision in the courts, it is of vital importance that the reasons for the decision are known.
Ordinarily, a statement of reasons accompanies notification of a decision. However, if this is not the case, a person may request the decision maker to supply a statement of the reasons if the decision is reviewable under pt 3 of the Judicial Review Act 1991 (Qld) (Judicial Review Act). Such reasons must be supplied within 28 days of a request (s 33 Judicial Review Act). The decision maker may refuse to supply reasons if they believe that the person making the request has no entitlement to do so, and the court may then decide that question. There are some limitations on the information that can be disclosed where a person makes a request for written reasons (i.e. notably confidential business or personal information (ss 35, 37 Judicial Review Act), and disclosure of Cabinet deliberations that would be contrary to the public interest (s 36 Judicial Review Act) are excluded).
Schedule 2 to the Judicial Review Act lists decisions for which a statement of reasons need not be given. Many of these decisions relate to the administration of civil and criminal justice (e.g. many decisions of the Crime and Corruption Commission), the commercial activities of designated state authorities, appointment decisions in government and financial matters (e.g. government tenders and contracts). Similar exclusions exist under the Commonwealth Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 (Cth) (ADJR Act).
The provisions in relation to the right to a statement of reasons apply only where review is sought under pt 3 of the Judicial Review Act or under the ADJR Act. If a person is seeking review under pt 5 (or the equivalent common law jurisdiction in s 39B of the Judiciary Act 1903 (Cth)), there is no common law right to be informed of the reasons for an administrative decision.
Once legal proceedings have begun, a procedure known as disclosure is available to both parties. Disclosure is the procedure by which relevant documents in the possession of one party must be disclosed or provided to the other party. In this way, any written reasons for a decision that exist may be obtained as part of the ordinary rules of civil proceedings. The government may, however, refuse to produce documents on a number of grounds, including Crown privilege, which is a claim that the public interest would be harmed if the documents were revealed.