The ALRC is an independent statutory authority that operates under the Australian Law Reform Commission Act 1996 (Cth) (the ALRC Act). It is responsible to Parliament through the Attorney-General. The Minister responsible for the ALRC is the Attorney-General, the Hon Robert McClelland MP.
The primary function of the ALRC, as set out in s 21 of the ALRC Act, is to report to the Attorney-General on the results of any review or consideration it carries out and to include in the report any recommendations it wants to make.
The ALRC is required to review Commonwealth laws relevant to those matters referred by the Attorney-General for the purposes of systematically developing and reforming the law particularly by:
- bringing the law into line with current conditions and ensuring that it meets current needs;
- removing defects in the law;
- simplifying the law;
- adopting new or more effective methods for administering the law and dispensing justice; and
- providing improved access to justice.
The ALRC is to consider proposals for making or consolidating Commonwealth laws, and must consider proposals for: the repeal of obsolete or unnecessary laws; uniformity between state and territory laws; and complementary Commonwealth, state and territory laws with reference to those matters referred to it.
The ALRC is required by s 24 to ensure that relevant laws, proposals and recommendations:
- do not trespass unduly on personal rights and liberties; cc
- do not make the rights and liberties of citizens unduly dependent on administrative, rather than judicial, decisions; and
- are, as far as practicable, consistent with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The ALRC also must have regard to any relevant international obligations, and take into account the potential impact of its recommendations on access to justice.