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Monday, 23 November 2009
Page: 12437


Mr McCLELLAND (Attorney-General) (4:25 PM) —Federal Justice System Amendment (Efficiency Measures) Bill (No. 1) 2008 contains a number of measures to improve the efficient operation of federal courts. It demonstrates the Government’s commitment to making the federal courts more flexible, minimising the costs of litigation and improving access to the civil justice system for all Australians. 

The bill will give the Federal Court power to refer proceedings, or a question in a proceeding to a referee for report will enable the court to more effectively manage large litigation. This procedural flexibility, combined with the referee’s specialist expertise, will allow the referee to quickly get to the core of the technical issues and reduce cost and delay for litigants, the courts and ultimately the taxpaying community. This measure unquestionably will assist in resolving a number of disputes, but in particular substantial commercial disputes will be resolved more quickly and efficiently.

The bill will also give the Federal Court jurisdiction concurrent with the state and territory supreme Courts under the International Arbitration Act 1974, which will assist in ensuring that the Federal Court is well placed to operate as a regional hub for commercial arbitration. Government amendments correct a minor technical point to clarify that awards will be enforceable in the federal courts as if they were a judgment or order of the Federal Court. The bill also responds to concerns about the validity of binding financial agreements, commonly known as pre nuptial agreements, following the decision of the full Family Court in the case of Black and Black. Government amendments provide greater certainty in relation to this issue.

In conclusion, the amendments in this bill reflect the government’s strong commitment to ensuring that the federal civil justice system is operating as efficiently and effectively as possible and is responsive to the needs of litigants, the courts and the community.

That the amendments be agreed to.

Question agreed to.