A reformed federal appeals tribunal should soon see swifter resolution of thousands of matters. 

Parliament has passed laws overhauling the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), including renaming it the Administrative Review Tribunal (ART).

The tribunal exists to review government decisions on issues such as visas and welfare payments. 

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus says the recently-passed legislation will help in restoring public trust in the appeals process.

“This bill represents the most important reform of the federal system of administrative review in decades,” Dreyfus told parliament. 

The reform includes a merit-based selection process for appointing tribunal members, aimed at ensuring a higher standard of adjudication. 

The legal change follows a $206 million funding boost over four years allocated in the recent federal budget; intended to expedite case resolutions and update the tribunal's outdated case-management systems.

“The complete funding commitment will support the tribunal to deliver the measures in the bill, update its ageing case-management systems, increase accessibility and assist to resolve backlogs,” Dreyfus said.

In a recent Senate estimates hearing, AAT registrar Michael Hawkins had to defend the tribunal against criticisms of being disconnected from community expectations. 

“As members, when we take that oath, we take it seriously. We fulfil our responsibilities as members which is to make the correct decision,” Hawkins said. 

“The members who have been referred to in the press about decisions they’ve made, which have been made in accordance with their oath and with the practice and procedure of a member, they would be wearing it and they would be hurting.”

The transition from AAT to ART follows criticisms of the AAT's slow visa appeals process. 

Many consider the tribunal to be under-resourced - a point echoed by Robodebt Royal Commissioner Catherine Holmes in her final report, which noted that resource limitations hampered the AAT's effectiveness.

Current employees will continue their roles in the ART, but tribunal members face an uncertain future. 

Dreyfus has criticised the current selection process for lacking merit, proposing that future appointments be made through a merit-based hiring system. 

Approximately 250 members have reapplied for their positions, but final decisions are pending.