This article was written by Sally Crosswell

Sally Crosswell has a Bachelor of Laws (Hons), a Bachelor of Communication and a Master of International and Community Development. She also completed a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice at the College of Law. A former journalist, Sally has a keen interest in human rights law.

State Administrative Tribunal (SAT)


The State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) has the power to review administrative decisions made by Western Australian government agencies in a wide range of matters. SAT’s functions and powers were established by the State Administrative Tribunal Act 2004. It has jurisdiction to make decisions, review decisions and consider disciplinary matters under more than 150 Acts (“enabling Acts”) listed in the State Administrative Tribunal (Conferral of Jurisdiction) Amendment and Repeal Act 2004.

For a decision to be reviewable by SAT, the legislation under which the original decision was made must specify that administrative review is available via SAT.

Tribunal objectives

The Act states the main objectives of the tribunal are:

  • to resolve questions, complaints or disputes, and make or review decisions, fairly on their merits;
  • to act as quickly and with as little formality and technicality as practicable, and minimise costs to parties;
  • to make use of the knowledge and experience of tribunal members.

SAT functions

SAT makes and reviews decisions about issues including:

  • guardianship and administration;
  • anti-discrimination;
  • occupational regulation;
  • building disputes;
  • working with children checks;
  • consumer disputes;
  • civil disputes;
  • gender assignment;
  • adoptions;
  • residential tenancy disputes;
  • commercial leases;
  • mental health appeals;
  • heritage decisions.

Applications for review

SAT can make a preliminary assessment of an application and take action accordingly.

It can reject an application for review if it is made by a person not entitle to make it, outside of a time limit, or does not comply with the Act or enabling Act.

SAT can dismiss (close indefinitely) or strike out (close with a right of reinstatement) an application if it considers the application:

  • is frivolous, vexatious, misconceived, or lacking in substance; or
  • is being used for an improper purpose; or
  • is otherwise an abuse of process.

It can also take similar steps if it considers a party is acting in a way that unnecessarily disadvantages another party to the proceedings. Such actions include not complying with a tribunal order without reasonable excuse, causing an adjournment or trying to deceive the other party or SAT.

It has a right to transfer the matter to a more appropriate forum, in another tribunal, a court or any other person.

It can consolidate 2 or more proceedings that have the same related facts and circumstances, or rule that those proceedings remain separate but be heard and decided together. It can also direct that any aspect of a proceeding be heard and determined separately, or that proceedings begun by 2 or more people be split into separate matters.

SAT has the power to require parties to an application to attend a compulsory  conference, held in private, to clarify the issues in the proceeding and promote a resolution.

It can refer the matter to a specified mediator for mediation, with or without the consent of the parties, and held in private. If a settlement is not reached, the mediator must report on the outcome to the tribunal.

Reviews

A review must involve a fresh hearing on the merits, and SAT is not bound by the rules of evidence, or court practices or procedures. This means, for example, the tribunal can consider new material, whether or not it existed at the time the decision was made.

The decision-maker must provide to SAT a written statement of the reasons for the decision, with any document or other material relevant to the review.

At any time in the process, SAT can ask the decision-maker to reconsider the decision. The decision-maker can affirm it, vary it, or set it aside and substitute a new decision. The SAT review must continue unless the applicant withdraws the application.

After reviewing a decision, SAT can:

  • affirm the decision;
  • vary the decision;
  • set aside the decision and:
    • substitute its own decision;
    • return the decision to the decision-maker for reconsideration, with directions or recommendations.
  • and, make any order it thinks is appropriate.

The tribunal must give reasons for its final decision.

A SAT order to pay money to a party can be enforced by a court if the amount is not paid. A non-monetary order can be enforced by the Supreme Court.

Parties must pay their own costs incurred for the review unless the SAT orders one party to pay the other party’s costs to compensate for any expenses, loss, inconvenience or embarrassment resulting from the proceeding.

A party can apply for leave (permission) to appeal an SAT decision to the Supreme Court within 28 days of the decision. The court can decide an appeal on a question of law or fact, not on merits.

After reviewing a decision, the court can:

  • affirm the decision;
  • vary the decision;
  • set aside the decision and:
    • substitute its own decision;
    • return the decision to the tribunal for reconsideration, with directions or recommendations.

Offences

A $10,000 fine applies to a person who does not comply with an SAT order. The same fine applies to a person who knowingly gives false or misleading information to the tribunal. It also applies to a person who insults, obstructs or hinders a tribunal member or person attending a hearing; misbehaves at or interrupts a hearing; or obstructs or hinders a person from complying with a tribunal order or summons.

A $5000 fine applies to a person who does not comply with a summons to attend the tribunal or produce a document or other material. The same fine applies to a person who refuses to swear an oath or make an affirmation or statutory declaration, or to answer a question, when directed by the tribunal.

The SAT has the power to refer a person to the Supreme Court for contempt of court committed during a tribunal hearing. It can also issue a warrant for the arrest of a person who fails to attend a tribunal as required by a summons.

For advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

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