Queensland Law Society (QLS) has called on the State Government to provide more to the over-stretched Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT).
QLS wrote to Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Yvette D’Ath last week to raise concerns about QCAT’s ongoing and increasing workload, and the need for better resourcing of the tribunal.
“Whilst QCAT continues to explore ways to respond to the breadth of its growing remit, in our view, it remains constrained by existing funding allocations,” the society said.
An overwhelmed tribunal “has significant impacts for all parties, the consequences of which are particularly acute for vulnerable members of the community and those living in regional and remote areas of the state”.
“QLS submits that increases to QCAT’s jurisdiction and the volume and complexity of matters which come before it, particularly in the guardianship jurisdiction, requires a significant funding commitment from government to ensure it can continue to meet demand for its services.”
The society pointed out that since its establishment in 2009, QCAT had been continually vested with new or expanded jurisdictions.
“QLS strongly recommends the government commit to providing a significant and sustained increase in funding to ensure that QCAT can continue to perform its functions and provide accessible, just, fair, economical, informal and quick resolutions, in line with its statutory mandate,” it said.
In addition, QLS recommended that “where increases in QCAT outcomes results in downward pressure to other statutory bodies and legal assistance providers, these entities must also be sufficiently funded to ensure they can adequately support any increased hearing capacity of QCAT”.
The Society said its members were reporting significant workloads and/or delays across QCAT jurisdictions including guardianship and administration; occupational discipline; minor civil disputes; and neighbourhood disputes.
There were also economic burdens resulting from the under-resourcing of QCAT, it said.
“For individuals, delays and disruptions in QCAT can negatively impact their businesses, livelihoods, personal assets and capital as well as create increased out-of-pocket expenses for legal and other needs.”
For government, impacts included greater burdens on government bodies which were either the subject of, or ancillary to, a matter before QCAT; and increased demand on the legal assistance sector and related services.
QLS recommended that additional funding be supported by a broad and strategic review, and engagement with QCAT stakeholders including statutory bodies and legal assistance providers.
It suggested discrete funding for training and resourcing of tribunal members and staff; obtaining capacity reports; allowing legal representation; and improving technology.
QLS has sent a copy of the letter to QCAT President Justice Mellifont, Treasurer Cameron Dick, and Shadow Attorney-General and Shadow Justice Minister Tim Nicholls.