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Wednesday, 20 October 2010
Page: 1035

Mr McCLELLAND (Attorney-General) (10:23 AM) —in reply—By way of summing up and responding to the debate on the Civil Dispute Resolution Bill 2010, I thank members for their contributions to the debate today. In particular I thank the member for Blair, who always brings a sound contribution to matters of legal practice. He was himself a practitioner for many years—not that he is that old—and has considerable experience.

This Civil Dispute Resolution Bill is an important step towards improved access to justice. It will help ensure that the mechanisms available to people and businesses for resolving disputes are reasonable, lawful and fair, and proportionate to the costs at issue. Members’ comments today echo the broad consultation that the government has already initiated in relation to improving the justice system. These include national consultations taken by the government’s Access to Justice Taskforce in relation to its 2009 report, A strategic framework for access to justice in the federal civil justice system, and by the National Alternative Dispute Resolution Advisory Council in relation to its 2009 report, The resolve to resolve. That report recommended the enactment of genuine steps and this bill does that.

As members will know, the government are improving access to justice on a number of fronts, including through measures such as this bill, which complement the significant reforms to the Federal Court’s case management powers enacted last year. But we are also acting to improve other aspects of the justice system, including through the reference to the Australian Law Reform Commission to explore options to improve the discovery process. As any lawyer will know, discovery is often the single largest cost associated with litigation. But our reforms do not just focus on the courts or lawyers; we have also successfully negotiated with the states and territories for a national partnership agreement on legal aid with a focus on early intervention and better access to information and services for ordinary Australians. Significantly, the government have made support for legal assistance a priority with the injection of $154 million of legal aid funding in the last budget. This includes $92.3 million for legal aid, $34.9 million for Indigenous legal aid and $26.8 million for community legal services. These are all measures of which the government are particularly proud. I commend the bill to the House, and thank honourable members for their contribution.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Ordered that this bill be reported to the House without amendment.