Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 June 2012
To what extent are decision makers obliged to provide reasons for their administrative decisions? Should they be obliged to give reasons in all circumstances and for all decisions? Two decades ago, the then-Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, Gibbs CJ, stated in the leading case of Public Service Board of New South Wales v Osmond:
The rules of natural justice are designed to ensure fairness in the making of a decision and it is difficult to see how the fairness of an administrative decision can be affected by what is done after the decision has been made.
In 2006, by way of contrast, the Court of Appeal in the United Kingdom in Phipps v The General Medical Council approved as applicable to administrative decision-making a statement in English v Emery Reimbold and Strick Ltd:
[J]ustice will not be done if it is not apparent to the parties why one has won and the other has lost.
These statements reflect different approaches to the question of whether administrative decision makers and tribunals should provide reasons to the person affected by the decision. In the first statement by Gibbs CJ, the view is that providing reasons after a decision is made cannot ensure fairness in the decision which has already been made. The focus of the second statement by the UK Court of Appeal is the individual affected by the decision and his or her need to see that justice has been done.