“Our workload is increasing,” tribunals head Denis O’Brien told a Senate estimates hearing.
More than 5900 applications were lodged with the MRT and 1646 with the RRT in the financial year to January 31.
Decisions in the RRT were up 31 per cent in the same period, with 75 per cent made within the recommended 90 day period. The average decision time was 95 days.
But decisions in the MRT were down 28 per cent in the same period, Mr O’Brien conceded.
“The decrease in MRT decision output – despite the increase in lodgements – is principally due to the substantial increase in our RRT work to which we must give priority,” he said.
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“Can I say that our resource difficulties have been exacerbated by the recent loss of a number of experienced RRT members.”
Eight tribunal members had taken leave of absences for placements inside the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, he said.
As at January 31 there were 829 active cases before the RRT and 9731 before the MRT.
“We just can’t afford to let that backlog continually increase without trying to address it,” Mr O’Brien said.
Mr O’Brien said he hoped to have new staff in place by the middle of the year.
The increase in MRT applications was due in large part to a massive increase in student visa review applications sparked by recent law changes, Mr O’Brien said.
The MRT reviews departmental decisions made on general visas while the RRT reviews decisions made on protection visas