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Wednesday, 11 May 2011
Page: 3693

Ms SMYTH (La Trobe) (10:45): Over recent months we have certainly heard the Prime Minister remark on many occasions about the strength of ties between Australia and New Zealand. Those ties are certainly cultural ties, but more than that they are increasingly economic and regulatory ties, and that is certainly a good thing for both countries. The practical effect of that relationship is reflected in the trans-Tasman proceedings measures which we are referring to today in relation to the Trans-Tasman Proceedings Amendment and Other Measures Bill 2011. The agreement on court proceedings and regulatory enforcement which was made between Australia and New Zealand in 2008 will certainly enhance cooperation in civil court proceedings, and it is intended to reduce transaction and litigation risks for businesses and individuals.

It is expected and hoped that that agreement will allow trans-Tasman disputes to be resolved more quickly and more effectively and certainly at a lower cost. As someone who has acted for commercial parties in matters relating to foreign jurisdictions, I know that anything that can be done to facilitate those objectives is certainly meaningful. I know that the prospect of litigation in a foreign jurisdiction can certainly be a deterrent to plaintiffs pursuing a claim for a debt. Taking litigation of that kind can certainly be prohibitively expensive. It can cause cash flow problems and take up inordinate amounts of staff time. Anything to ease the means of taking those sorts of proceedings in other jurisdictions, as will be facilitated by this legislation, is of benefit.

The agreement between Australia and New Zealand also forms one of the initiatives between Australia and New Zealand to strengthen economic integration, including the development of a single economic market, which is being undertaken under the umbrella of the Australia New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement. It is good to see the practical consequences of those more widespread economic reforms being seen today.

To implement the trans-Tasman proceedings agreement, Australia introduced certain legislation in 2010. In August 2010 the New Zealand parliament enacted its equivalent legislation. We know that several changes were made to the New Zealand act during its passage in response to both parliamentary committee reports and stakeholder concerns, and it is appropriate that this amending act be entered into to enable harmonisation and codification of both of those pieces of legislation.

The bill will make equivalent amendments to Australian acts to ensure the effectiveness of the regime. It will also address certain internal inconsistencies that may have been found in the Australian acts, and it will make the provisions clearer and easier to understand. Stakeholders in Australia have certainly been closely consulted during the project, and we know that they support the legislation.

In addition to those measures which are contemplated by the bill, there are certain family law fee measures. The bill contains technical measures to retrospectively validate fees charged for de facto financial matters in the Family Court and relevant state and territory courts for the period from March 2009 to November 2010. Without adding significantly to the last speaker's factual outline of the bill, I am very pleased to lend my support to it and will be happy to see it passed.