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Thursday, 18 March 2010
Page: 2215

Senator BRANDIS (12:53 PM) —The Trans-Tasman Proceedings Bill 2009 implements the agreement between the governments of Australia and New Zealand on trans-Tasman court proceedings and regulatory enforcement. The bill came about following the establishment of the Trans-Tasman Working Group on Court Proceedings and Regulatory Enforcement in 2003. The working group’s terms of reference were to examine the effectiveness and appropriateness of current arrangements relating to civil proceedings, civil penalty proceedings and criminal proceedings relating to regulatory matters. Its membership comprised senior officials from relevant government departments in both countries.

In 2007 the Australian and New Zealand governments agreed to implement the recommendations of the working group. The agreement, based on those recommendations, was signed on 24 July 2008 by the Attorney-General and the New Zealand Associate Minister for Justice, Lianne Dalziel. Pursuant to that agreement, the bill allows civil proceedings from a court in one country to be served in the other country without additional requirements; extends the range of civil court judgments enforceable between the two countries—judgments could be refused to be enforced only if they conflicted with public policy in the country of enforcement; provides for interim relief to be obtained from a court in one country in support of civil proceedings in the other; allows the regime to be extended to tribunals on a case-by-case basis; adopts a common rule to apply when a dispute could be heard by a court in either country; encourages greater use of technology for trans-Tasman court appearances; allows enforcement of civil penalty orders across the Tasman; and allows fines for certain regulatory offences to be enforced across the Tasman where there is a strong mutual interest in doing so.

Introduced with this bill is the Trans-Tasman Proceedings (Transitional and Consequential Provisions) Bill 2009, which amends the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976 in relation to the conduct of trans-Tasman market proceedings, makes consequential amendments to seven acts and repeals the Evidence and Procedure (New Zealand) Act. The two bills reflect a mutual and bipartisan determination on the part of the governments of Australia and New Zealand to harmonise their legal systems as much as is possible. The negotiations that culminated in these bills commenced and were essentially concluded under the Howard government and have the support of the coalition. I commend the bills to the Senate.