A great number of complex legal disputes involving a variety of
industries are determined in Queensland tribunals these days. Often
the rules do not allow parties to have legal representation as a
matter of right and special permission needs to be sought to obtain
the assistance of a lawyer. This will be the case with
Queensland's new "super tribunal" - to be known as
QCAT or the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
Queensland's new "super
From 1 December 2009 most of Queensland's existing tribunals
will be joined into QCAT.
Attorney General Cameron Dick has said that the introduction of
QCAT "represents the most significant structural reform to
Queensland's justice system in 50 years". QCAT will be
divided into three separate divisions – human rights,
administrative and disciplinary and civil disputes.
Twenty-three of the current tribunals and some of the functions
of five other bodies will be amalgamated to form QCAT. The
tribunals affected include the Commercial and Consumer Tribunal,
the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal, the Guardianship and
Administration Tribunal and the Retail Shop Leases Tribunal. The
introduction of QCAT is likely to have the biggest impact on the
small claim and minor debt jurisdictions of the Magistrates Court,
which are to form part of the civil disputes division of QCAT from
1 December 2009.
The types of disputes that may be handled by QCAT include:
building and construction disputes;
disputes involving property agents and motor dealers;
disputes between landlords and tenants of retail shops;
disciplinary matters involving teachers, health practitioners
and legal practitioners.
QCAT will be headed by a President who is a Supreme Court Judge
and Deputy President who is a District Court Judge or a lawyer.
There will be a core group of full time members, as well as some
part time members. Members will be either legal practitioners or
have specialised knowledge or experience in relation to one or more
of the various types of matters to be heard by QCAT.
QCAT is intended to provide a more flexible and "user
friendly" approach than the existing tribunal network. It is
designed to increase the general community's access to justice
by streamlining the current minefield of processes and systems in
place amongst Queensland's various tribunal bodies.
Will you need to appear without a lawyer?
Like many existing tribunals, it is intended that parties to
claims bought in QCAT will have to appear in person without legal
representation. The tribunal will need to give specific consent if
a party wants to be represented by a lawyer or agent.
The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Bill 2009
(introduced into parliament on 19 May 2009) states that matters the
tribunal will consider when deciding whether to let people be
represented will include:
the likely complexity of issues of fact and law in the
whether another party is represented.
The yet to be introduced "QCAT Rules" will further
clarify how the issue of representation will be dealt with by QCAT.
It is intended that these rules will specify the types of matters
that warrant representation.
Those involved in industries which are routinely before existing
Queensland tribunals - such as property agents or those in the
building/construction industry – will need to come to
grips with a new system which will determine many important legal
disputes in Queensland.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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