In a move heralded as “the most significant structural reform to Queensland’s justice system since the re-establishment of the District Court in 1959”, legislation to create Queensland’s new civil and administrative tribunal: the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal, was passed by Parliament on 17 June 2009.  Dispute Resolution Lawyer, Alison Blyth, examines the legislation.

The legislation passed included the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 which commences on 1 December 2009, and the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (Jurisdiction Provisions) Amendment Act 2009, which amends over 200 pieces of legislation.

The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) does away with 23 different bodies, including tribunals, commissions and some of the jurisdictions of the courts, including the administrative review jurisdiction of the courts, the Gaming Commission and the Treasurer and the minor debt jurisdiction of the Magistrates Court .

Once operational, QCAT, will replace the following 18 tribunals: the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal, the Appeal Tribunal (levee banks) under the Local Government Act 1993, the Children Services Tribunal, the Commercial and Consumer Tribunal, the Fisheries Tribunal, the Guardianship and Administration Tribunal, the Independent Assessor under the Prostitution Act 1999, the Health Practitioners Tribunal, the Legal Practice Tribunal, the Misconduct Tribunal, the Nursing Tribunal, the Panel of Referees under the Fire and Rescue Service Act 1990, the Racing Appeals Tribunal, the Retail Shop Leases Tribunal, the Small Claims Tribunal, the Surveyors Disciplinary Committee, the Teachers Disciplinary Committee, and the Veterinary Tribunal.

QCAT’s objective is to deliver justice in a way that is independent, efficient, expert, accessible, flexible and able to adapt to future pressures.

As with many existing tribunals, parties in claims brought to QCAT must appear in person without legal representation, or get specific consent to be represented. Consent will be given dependent on the complexity of issues of fact and law in the proceeding and whether another party is represented.

To accommodate its disparate jurisdictions, QCAT will operate in three divisions.

The Human Rights division will deal with guardianship and administration, child protection and anti-discrimination matters.

The Civil Disputes division will deal with small claims, minor debts, residential and retail tenancy disputes and some other more complex civil disputes.

The Administrative and Disciplinary division will deal with reviews of administrative decisions of various Queensland Government departments, local governments or regulatory authorities. It will also deal with disciplinary matters for various professions.

Within each division, QCAT will have original and review jurisdiction. For example, the Administrative and Disciplinary division will have original jurisdiction for the more serious disciplinary matters, as well as review jurisdiction for the review of administrative decisions.

QCAT will also have an appeal jurisdiction where decisions of QCAT may be appealed to QCAT’s internal appeal tribunal.

QCAT will be headed by a President, Supreme Court Justice Peter Dutney QC, and Deputy President, District Court Judge Fleur Kingham. Its other members will be legal practitioners or have specialised knowledge or experience in relation to the matters heard by QCAT.

The legislation to create QCAT has been in the making since 12 March 2008, when the Queensland Government announced its intention to create a new civil and administrative tribunal and appointed an independent panel to oversee its creation in three stages.