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5.15 Reasons for decision
Every decision should be capable of logical explanation. A statement of reasons should contain all the steps of reasoning necessary for the affected person to understand how the decision was reached and should link the facts and evidence to the decision through that process of reasoning. Each step should be shown as a logical and clear element in a progression to the decision based on full consideration of all the relevant evidence and material.
The legislative and policy criteria relevant to the decision and the conclusion reached on each of those criteria should be clearly stated. As a minimum requirement, the reasons should identify the relevant provisions of the Act and Guidelines by section or part number and content. The delegate should exercise his or her judgement as to whether those provisions should be quoted word for word (this would be the preferred course when citing sections of the Act) or paraphrased, according to the requirements of each case. It is essential to state and link to the facts of the case any element of legislation, policy or judicial precedent which is part of the justification of the decision. It is not sufficient to simply explain the relevant policy in general terms without citing the relevant legislative and manual provisions.
Many of the decisions made by a delegate under the Act necessarily will involve the exercise of a discretion specified in the relevant legislative provision, such as the determination under s.21 of whether the cost of essential repairs would cause a borrower serious financial hardship. In deciding such matters, the delegate must bear in mind that the discretion being exercised is the same as that which would be available to the delegating authority (ie. the Minister or the Secretary) if it was making the decision. In framing reasons, it is therefore important to show that there has been a genuine exercise of any discretionary power.
Where the exercise of that discretion is the subject of a particular Government policy, it is appropriate for the delegate to acknowledge that policy, and to be assisted and guided by it in making a decision, so long as there is no inconsistency or conflict with the relevant legislative provisions. Where such a conflict does exist and the delegate defers to the policy on the matter, it is open to a review authority to decide that there has not been a valid exercise of the power in question. Of course, the delegate should also be satisfied that the application of a particular policy is appropriate to the circumstances of the case being considered.
Where there is more than one reason for making an adverse decision, all such reasons should be given. For example, where an applicant is ineligible for a certificate in relation to an initial advance because of a lack of qualifying service and ownership of another home, both reasons should be stated. This will overcome the possibility of a reviewing authority taking the silence of the decision maker on a particular criterion as an implication that the affected person satisfies that criterion when this may not be the case.
There is no obligation to set the elements of a decision out under formal headings, or to deal with them sequentially, but as an entirety the statement must contain these three elements in a clear and precise form addressing the legislative and policy criteria relevant to the decision and containing all steps of reasoning leading to the decision.