Page 770 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 21 March 2017

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Rather than being tied to formal court procedures with fixed, and long, time frames, parties can agree on when, where and how they will meet. For example, virtual attendance is possible, and proceedings are not limited to court hours. Other aspects of the process, such as the scope of discovery and the length of the arbitration, can also be decided by the parties. There can be a schedule for arbitration, with set dates for each stage of the proceedings. This control and flexibility can be used to create speed and certainty for those involved.

Similarly, the tribunal has flexibility to admit evidence and give directions and orders more informally. Interim orders can be made, and proceedings can be guided in a quick and responsive manner. As I am sure you can appreciate, Mr Assistant Speaker, a speedy resolution of disputes is of utmost importance in the business world. Drawn-out indecision can cause significant costs to a business, since investing in the future of the business may be futile until an outcome is reached in a dispute.

Another benefit of arbitration is the reassurance that proceedings will be private and confidential unless the parties agree otherwise. Without fear of media scrutiny, companies can be more open and frank. However, safeguards are in place and it is not a blanket protection for parties. A court can still order release of information where it is in the public interest to do so.

The arbitration model adopted in this bill also allows parties to take advantage of specialist arbitrators. Parties can have a say on how arbitrators are appointed and can nominate arbitrators. This means parties are able to appoint arbitrators who already know a lot about the relevant industries and issues involved. This can save the parties a lot of time, since the arbitrators are already well versed in relevant technical know-how and industry standards.

Finally, arbitration delivers finality for the parties. Since parties themselves come up with the terms of this dispute resolution mechanism, the decision of the tribunal carries a lot of weight. Appeals are only available in a limited set of prescribed circumstances. Generally speaking, these are circumstances in which procedural justice has not been afforded to a party.

This bill will bring model commercial arbitration law to the ACT. The new framework will reflect international best practice. It will create a homogeneous Australian system. It will ease the burden on our court systems. Importantly, it will more effectively facilitate the fair and final resolution of commercial disputes by impartial arbitral tribunals without unnecessary delay or expense. I commend this bill to the Assembly.

MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong) (11.31): I rise to indicate the ACT Greens’ support for this bill. As has been touched on in the debate today, court processes can be slow, difficult and sometimes very costly for the parties to those cases. They are also costly for the governments that fund the court system. Because of this the Greens support institutions, organisations and tools that help people find ways to avoid those costly delays in the legal system and find alternative pathways of dispute resolution.

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