The Administrative Review Council (ARC) explains merits review as:
Merits review is the process by which a person or body:
- other than the primary decision-maker;
- reconsiders the facts, law and policy aspects of the original decision; and
- determines what is the correct and preferable decision. The process of review may be described as 'stepping into the shoes' of the primary decision-maker. The result of merits review is the affirmation or variation of the original decision.
The Merit Protection Commissioner does not have the power to make a fresh decision, but will make a recommendation to the APS agency as to whether the decision under review should be confirmed, varied or set aside.
The ARC further provides:
The principal objective of merits review is to ensure that those administrative decisions in relation to which review is provided are correct and preferable:
- correct - in the sense that they are made according to law; and
- preferable - in the sense that, if there is a range of decisions that are correct in law, the decision settled upon is the best that could have been made on the basis of the relevant facts. This objective is directed to ensuring fair treatment of all persons affected by a decision. Merits review also has a broader, long-term objective of improving the quality and consistency of the decisions of primary decision-makers. Further, merits review ensures that the openness and accountability of decisions made by government are enhanced.