Many people will have only heard the term "Procedural Fairness" for the first time this week.
This has been a hot topic in the last couple of days because of the Court overturning the decision to cancel a visa. Its important to note that the decision is effectively a 'technicality', and hasn't really looked at the law - it is this that has left many people confused.
Procedural Fairness, also known as "Natural Justice" is one of the very foundations of our legal system. Put very simply, the process allows for a person to be given a chance to respond to something that might be adverse to them. It is quite often seen in administrative decisions - such as immigration matters, but it also seen in our line of work particularly when dealing with Workers' Compensation matters, TPD and Life Insurance products and also in Employment law.
Where a decision maker is looking to make a decision that is adverse to a person's interests, the laws of Natural Justice require that the person be given a chance to respond to what has been put to them, which allows the decision maker to have more information - that may or may not alter the outcome. The decision maker must follow through on what has been offered and promised. In this week's example, it appears that the decision maker agreed to allow until a certain time for the respondent to provide a response, however then changed their mind. Ultimately, this wasn't fair. In other words, you can't make a promise or a representation to someone that they then rely on, and go back on your word.
A denial of Procedural Fairness, does not necessarily always mean that a decision is overturned entirely, it can also mean that a decision is sent back to the decision maker to make a fresh decision, but it can also mean that the decision made was invalid. The outcome will always depend on the circumstances.
What this week has shown is that the rules will be applied equally - and they are, they are just not as widely published as this week's incident has been.
As the world awaits the next decision in this latest saga, you can guarantee that it will have been made with very careful consideration, or at least with more consideration than the previous decision.