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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 03 Hansard (Tuesday, 21 March 2017) . . Page.. 771 ..

For example, in a different area of law, the Greens federally, as well as I locally, have spoken very strongly against the Abbott-Turnbull government’s huge cuts to community legal centres. This is a great example, because community legal centres are vital organisations that support people such as domestic violence victims to access the legal system. In doing so, they are a critical support for the legal system itself and are able to provide a level of support for many people. Groups like the Welfare Rights and Legal Centre, or Canberra Community Law as they are now known, can often help people to avoid getting into legal situations. These are the sorts of alternative mechanisms that I think are very valuable.

In that vein, commercial arbitration is another tool that I think supports the legal system. It supports the system by diverting commercial disputes out of expensive and slow court cases. Importantly, as Ms Cheyne touched on, it is also voluntary; no-one is forced into it but it is there if parties choose to use it. I would encourage people to consider this as an option. Certainly, I am very pleased to support this bill, which strengthens this option and makes it available to parties. I am happy to support the bill on behalf of the ACT Greens.

MR RAMSAY (Ginninderra—Attorney-General, Minister for Regulatory Services, Minister for the Arts and Community Events and Minister for Veterans and Seniors) (11.32), in reply: Can I firstly acknowledge the contributions of Mr Wall, Ms Cheyne and Mr Rattenbury to this debate and thank them for their support for this bill.

The Commercial Arbitration Bill 2016 will repeal the Commercial Arbitration Act 1986 and provide a new procedural framework for the conduct of domestic commercial arbitrations consistent with the rest of the country. Parties to commercial arbitrations will have greater certainty that their proceedings will be cost effective, unbiased and fair. Commercial arbitration is an important alternative to lengthy and more expensive litigation.

As I mentioned to members on presentation of this bill, this is a model uniform law. It is based on the UN Commission on International Trade Law model law on international commercial arbitration. It has been appropriately modified for a domestic arbitration scheme.

This uniform model law has now been adopted in each state and in the Northern Territory. Adopting this law in the ACT will give both arbitrators and parties to commercial arbitration agreements a greater sense of certainty and confidence that commercial arbitration law is consistent throughout Australia.

The ACT’s current Commercial Arbitration Act is part of the old uniform domestic arbitration legislation which has not kept pace with international best practice. The bill will update and modernise the ACT’s commercial arbitration law in line with national and international best practice. Today’s bill improves on the existing ACT legislation by ensuring that arbitration agreements cannot be easily invalidated and by providing basic process improvements to facilitate arbitration.

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