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Thursday, 30 September 2010
Page: 270

Mr McCLELLAND (Attorney-General) (9:41 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I am pleased today to introduce the Civil Dispute Resolution Bill 2010 into the parliament.

The bill encourages parties to take genuine steps to seek to resolve their dispute where possible before commencing proceedings in the Federal Court or a Federal Magistrates Court. It builds upon the enhanced case management powers that were legislated by this government in the previous parliament.

The bill will encourage parties to turn their minds to the issues in dispute, the outcomes they are seeking and how this can best be achieved before commencing litigation.

Launching into litigation is not always the best approach. Parties can benefit from exchanging information, narrowing the issues in dispute and exploring options for resolution that will lead to more matters being settled by agreement earlier on, before significant costs have been incurred and positions become entrenched. Even if matters do progress to court, costs will be saved as the issues in dispute will be better understood and, hopefully, narrowed.

The bill is also a further step to moving from the adversarial culture of litigation to one where resolution is actively sought. Of course, not all matters can be resolved, and some do need the clarity of a judicial ruling. However, the general aim of considering resolution where possible should be fostered. In doing so, the bill does not undermine the critical role of the courts as ultimate adjudicators of legal issues. Equally, courts are already taking a modern approach, which should be recognised. They are actively promoting judges to facilitate agreements between parties, for example, through court referred alternative dispute resolution. This bill does not displace that process but encourages parties to genuinely negotiate before commencing litigation. A further aim of the legislation is to encourage lawyers to fully inform clients about options to resolve disputes and alternatives to legal action.

The bill does not introduce a mandatory alternative dispute resolution or prescriptive or onerous pre-action protocols, nor does it prevent a party from commencing litigation. It is deliberately flexible in allowing parties to tailor the genuine steps they take to the circumstances of the dispute. In doing so, it encourages parties to genuinely turn their minds to what they can do to attempt to resolve the matter.

I am pleased that other jurisdictions are taking a similar approach. I note the passage of the Civil Procedure Bill 2010 in Victoria and the consideration by the New South Wales Attorney-General, John Hatzistergos, of recommendations made in the blueprint for alternative dispute resolution. It is heartening that my colleagues in other jurisdictions are seeking to take similar approaches.

Debate (on motion by Mr Chester) adjourned.