Prior to the establishment of NTCAT there was no centralised system for the review of the merits of decisions by government agencies. Opportunities and procedures for the review of such decisions were inconsistent, involving more than 35 discrete ‘ad hoc’ review bodies.
The inefficiency and confusion this caused was the subject of two reports of the Northern Territory Law Reform Committee, in June 1991 and September 2004.
Each report included recommendations for the establishment of a tribunal system for the comprehensive making and review of administrative decisions.
By 2013 all Australian jurisdictions apart from the Northern Territory and Tasmania had either established or committed to the replacement of ad hoc tribunal systems.
On 15 May 2014, the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, introduced into the Northern Territory Parliament a Bill for the creation of NTCAT, declaring that the tribunal would be a ‘single, easy to find, easy to use, non-judicial body for a fair and independent resolution of disputes relating to administrative decisions’ and a ‘common platform for dispute resolution’.
Creating the tribunal and identifying its jurisdiction has involved (and will continue to involve) the enactment of a raft of legislation.
The principal Act, which commenced on 6 October 2014 is the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act, which establishes the tribunal and sets out how it is to operate
That Act, however, did not confer any jurisdiction on the tribunal. Whether the NTCAT has jurisdiction in a matter depends upon separate provision being made in legislation. Generally, this involves amending current laws so that NTCAT takes over the responsibilities of existing tribunals. A legislative programme spanning a period of approximately two years will see over a hundred Acts amended in this way.
NTCAT’s objectives are set out in section 10 of the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act. These provide that NTCAT must:
NTCAT consists of the President, Deputy President and Ordinary Members. The President, Richard Bruxner, and Senior Member, Andrew Macrides, were both appointed by the Administrator for the Northern Territory on 30 September 2014.
Other members will be appointed to NTCAT to participate in its hearings on a ‘sessional’ basis. These members will be selected from a diverse range of professional and other backgrounds and will allow flexibility in the make-up of the Tribunal when it is dealing with specialised areas (for example professional disciplinary matters).