NT Introduces Bill to Establish Judicial Commission

Friday 13 March 2020 @ 9.19 a.m. | Judiciary, Legal Profession & Procedure | Legal Research

On 13 February 2020, the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Natasha Fyles, introduced the Judicial Commission Bill 2020 (“the Bill”) into the Northern Territory’s Legislative Assembly, with the Bill being immediately referred to the Legislation Scrutiny Committee for report by 5 May 2020.

Object of the Bill

The Bill’s Compatibility Statement indicates the primary object of the Bill is to “create a formal, statutory framework for handling complaints against judicial officers and ordinary members of the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal (‘NTCAT’)”.

The key functions of the Commission, as outlined in the Bill’s Explanatory Statement (“ES”), are to establish a:

“Judicial Commission whose functions are to receive, examine and report on complaints regarding the behaviour or ability of judicial officers and ordinary (non-judicial) members of NTCAT …”

The Judicial Commission would be an investigatory body with the authority to dismiss a complaint, refer it to the head of jurisdiction with recommendations for action, or establish an investigation panel to deal with the most serious complaints.

An Investigation Panel would investigate complaints that could justify removal from office or termination of appointment. The Panel may dismiss the complaint, refer it to the head of jurisdiction with recommendations for action or, if it forms the opinion that the complaint could justify consideration of removal from office or termination of appointment, report to the Administrator and the Minister.

The Bill proposes consequential amendments to:

  • Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Act 2017;
  • Legal Profession Act 2006;
  • Local Court Act 2015;
  • Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2014; and
  • Supreme Court Act 1979.


The purpose of NTCAT is to provide a forum for reviewing a wide range of administrative decisions and for resolving certain civil disputes - such as residential tenancy matters and small claims up to an amount of $25,000. NTCAT also “exercises jurisdiction in relation to the regulation of particular professions and the protection of civil rights, with its object being to achieve outcomes that are prompt, fair and inexpensive”.

Prior to the establishment of NTCAT there was no centralised system for the review of administrative decisions, currently it has over 30 members who hear and decide cases.

The Judicial Commission

As indicated in the Minister’s speech, the establishment of the Judicial Commission is “… modelled on similar statutory mechanisms in other Australian jurisdictions, in particular New South Wales …”

The Minister also said in her speech that the Bill will “establish a statutory Judicial Commission whose members comprise the three heads of jurisdiction, being the President of the Law Society and at least one, but no more than two community members who are of high standing”.

She went on to say:

“… This bill overcomes the absence of structured, transparent and accessible processes … The bill will introduce a transparent and robust framework for complaints handling and enhance public confidence in the judicial system. It strikes the appropriate balance between judicial accountability and judicial independence.”

Outline of the Consequential Amendments

The following NT legislation will be affected by the Bill’s consequential amendments:

  • Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Act 2017 – both section 4 (Definitions) and section 25 (Referral to referral entity) will be amended, while a new section 25A (Referral to Judicial Commission) will be inserted and section 28 (Directions to referral entity) will be amended;
  • Legal Profession Act 2006 – section 467 (Practitioners to whom this Chapter applies) is to be amended;
  • Local Court Act 2015 – section 57 (Termination of appointment of Judge) to be substituted;
  • Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2014 – section 19 (Termination of appointment of member) to be substituted; and
  • Supreme Court Act 1979 – section 40 (Removal from office) is to be amended, while section 41F (Removal of Associate Judge from office) will be substituted.

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Judicial Commission Bill 2020 (NT) - Bill and supporting information available from TimeBase's LawOne Service

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