Changing Relations between Government and Citizen: Administrative Law and the Work of the Australian Commonwealth Ombudsman

Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australian Journal of Public Administration, 2008, 67 (3), pp. 321 - 339
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This article examines the individual complaint-taking role of the Australian Commonwealth Ombudsman over a 28 year period between 19772005. This study was conceived through a curiosity to determine how a 30 year old administrative law institution is reacting to accommodate a dramatically altered legal, political and economic environment. The suspicion was that, in the absence of legislative amendment to its jurisdiction and role, the Commonwealth Ombudsman must strategically change due to the demands of these external forces. The overall quantitative finding from the data analysis is that the internal strategic direction of the Commonwealth Ombudsman is indeed altering. In terms of dispute resolution it is increasingly using its discretionary powers to turn individual complainants back to government departments/agencies. The data analysis reveals that this administrative law institution is shifting from a reactive individual complaint taker to a proactive standard setter for government administration. This article suggests that this movement may impact upon citizen 'rights' or perceptions of their rights to have their individual complaints heard against government. This in turn may have a ripple effect for notions of democratic accountability and the relationship between the citizen and the state.
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