QUEENSLANDERS appealing Government decisions to the Queensland Civil Administration Tribunal (QCAT) are being denied natural justice following a spate of refusals to allow them legal representation hearings.
Shooters Union Australia has confirmed some of its members are among those whom QCAT has denied permission to have legal representations in firearms licensing appeals, and the issue has become so serious Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) have raised it in parliament twice in the past week.
MPs Shane Knuth and Robbie Traeger have both demanded explanations from Police Minister Mark Ryan – Mr Knuth in Question Time and Mr Traeger via a Question On Notice – about the matter, with little success so far.
Shooters Union Australia president Graham Park expressed his frustration with the Police Minister’s response to Mr Knuth’s question, which included a dismissive comment that people who had objections to a Weapons Licensing Branch decision had the right to pursue those objections through the appeal process.
“He’s completely missed the point – the issue is people are being denied the right to pursue their objections to an administrative decision, because it is not even a remotely level playing field,” Mr Park said.
“A farmer whose formal education ended at Year 12 is not in the same league as a full-time WLB staff member with considerable experience representing the branch in QCAT for legal matters, backed by the full resources of not only Weapons Licensing Branch but the entire Queensland Police Service by extension.
“Weapons Licensing matters often involve complex matters of law and preventing laypeople from having legal representation, especially when the outcomes of the appeal can have serious consequences, is a denial of natural justice and completely unacceptable in a democratic country.”
Mr Park said he understood QCAT was originally set up for fairly straightforward appeals of administrative matters, but thanks to scope creep it was now a quasi-court in its own right for some issues, notably anything relating to the Weapons Licensing Branch.
“Weapons Licensing are happy to claim any QCAT ruling which benefits them is binding precedent on everyone forever, but when QCAT rules against them then they decide that ruling only applies to that specific case,” he said.
“That alone indicates the importance of applicants being allowed proper legal representation – it’s not just the outcome of their matter that needs it, it’s potentially everyone who has, or will have, the same issue needing it.”
“QCAT’s standing orders need to be amended to ensure individuals will always have the ability to bring legal representation to Weapons Licensing related hearings, and the Police Minister needs to instruct Weapons Licensing to chill out and stop creating the issues that lead to QCAT appeals in the first place.”