In certain circumstances, there is a right to request the reasons behind an administrative decision.
Under s 8(1) of the Administrative Law Act 1978 (Vic) (ALA), a tribunal shall, if requested to do so by any person affected by a decision made or to be made by it, provide the person affected with a statement of its reasons for the decision.
Has a ‘decision’ been made?
Under the ALA, a ‘decision’ is a decision operating in law to determine a question affecting the rights of any person or to grant, deny, terminate, suspend or alter a privilege or licence. The definition of ‘decision’ includes a refusal or failure to perform a duty, or to exercise a power to make such a decision: s 2 ALA.
Who has standing to request reasons?
Only a ‘person affected’by a decision can request reasons under s 8(1) ALA.
A ‘person affected’ is defined as someone whose interest may be affected, directly or indirectly, and to a substantial degree, by a decision which has been made or is to be made or ought to have been made by the tribunal: s 2 ALA.
The person’s interest must be greater than the interest of other members of the public, however, the person does not have to be a party to proceedings.
It seems apparent that a person impacted by a decision of Fines Victoria in relation to their infringements would fall within this definition.
Who is a ‘tribunal’ under the ALA?
Only decisions made by tribunals give rise to a right to request reasons: see s 8 ALA.
A tribunal is a person, or body of persons, who in arriving at the decision in question, is or are by law required, whether by express direction or not, to act in a judicial manner to the extent of observing one or more of the rules of natural justice: s 2 ALA.
Courts are willing to regard various bodies as owing a duty of procedural fairness. For example, a medical panel tasked with answering medical questions about a person’s capacity to work is bound to observe the rules of natural justice in favour of those whose rights are liable to be affected by its opinion: Sherlock v Lloyd & Ors  VSC 450 at .
Fines Victoria in determining enforcement review applications likely constitutes a ‘Tribunal’ for the purposes of s 2 ALA due to its obligations to accord natural justice. Fines Victoria’s guide to enforcement review states:
The Director’s decision-making process takes place within the legal framework of the Fines Reform Act and administrative law principles. Decisions are made in accordance with legislation and departmental guidelines.
This means that:
the review and decision will be carried out in accordance with the law
the review will be fair (for example, there will be no bias or conflict of interest)
all relevant matters will be considered and no irrelevant matters will be considered
proper consideration will be given to your human rights, and
you will be given information about the outcome of your application and the reason for the decision.