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Launch of alternative dispute resolution standard discussion paper, National Alternative Dispute Resolution Advisory Council, 12:00 pm, 30 March 2000, 8 Darling Harbour (Passenger terminal), Sydney.



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March 2000

Launch of Alternative Dispute Resolution Standard Discussion Paper National Alternative Dispute Resolution Advisory Council 12:00pm, 30 March 2000 8 Darling Harbour (Passenger terminal), Sydney

Introduction

Good morning and welcome. It is with great pleasure that I am here today to launch a Discussion Paper on behalf of the National Alternative Dispute Resolution Advisory Council.

1.

NADRACís Charter requires it to advise me as the Attorney-General on matters such as minimum standards, training and qualifications relating to Alternative Dispute Resolution Services.

2.

This launch is a significant moment in Alternative Dispute Resolution. It represents the culmination of a great deal of work by this, and the previous Council.

3.

But the launch of this paper is not an end point. It is the start of a process to develop a framework for standards across the diverse range of contexts in which Alternative Dispute Resolution is now practiced. Establishing standards is central for the future of Alternative Dispute Resolution in Australia. It will ensure the potential benefits of Alternative Dispute Resolution are fully realised.

Why Alternative Dispute Resolution?

4.

There are many good reasons for Alternative Dispute Resolution. Clearly, traditional methods of litigation and adjudication have an important role to play in a democratic society. But the negative consequences of litigation are obvious. The adversarial system creates winners and losers. The devastation of ongoing conflict within families, often exacerbated by litigation, has been tragically illustrated on too many occasions. The impact of ongoing disputes on the business and industrial sectors can also have dramatic financial consequences. Inevitably those costs flow onto the community at large.

5.

An effective system of justice in contemporary society means looking beyond traditional approaches to conflict resolution. It requires us to find faster, cheaper and simpler means to resolve disputes. It demands high quality dispute resolution options that are flexible and effective.

Government commitment

6.

The Government has a deep commitment to providing alternatives to the expense, delay and distress of contested court hearings. 7.

We recently established the new Federal Magistrates Service, a court that emphasises informal and low cost processes for resolving disputes. The Service will place a strong emphasis on alternative dispute resolution.

8.

As part of our ongoing support for Australian families, the Government also provided in the last Budget an additional $16 million for primary dispute resolution in the community.

9.

Alternative dispute resolution is an integral part of almost every aspect of Commonwealth activity in areas as diverse as administrative law, native title, workplace relations and trade practices.

Other Governments

10.

State, Territory and Local Governments have also introduced alternative dispute resolution to deal with a wide range of areas such as tenancy disputes, environmental conflicts, neighbourhood conflict and health complaints. Through victim-offender mediation and conferencing schemes, alternative dispute resolution has been introduced into the criminal justice system itself.

Community and Industry

11.

But alternative dispute resolution is not solely the province of government. Local communities, organisations and industries have embraced new and effective ways of resolving disputes. Indigenous communities have initiated local mediation programs. Schools have developed peer mediation programs. Organisations have developed their own in-house alternative dispute resolution procedures. Industry bodies have introduced dispute resolution and ombudsman schemes.

Responsibility for developing ADR standards

12.

This explosion in the range of Alternative Dispute Resolution processes and applications creates a challenge for all of us - governments, consumers, ADR practitioners, agencies and professionals, and the community.

13.

As a purchaser and funder of many ADR services, the Australian Government has a obvious interest in ensuring that high standards are maintained. Consumers of ADR services have a right to be assured that their reasonable expectations of a quality service are met. Consumer satisfaction is essential if ADR services are to be accepted by other agencies and professionals, and by the community at large.

14.

Responsibility for standards cannot rest with any single body, agency or sector. Standards will require a flexible, collaborative approach that respects diversity and encourages innovation. They must also protect the interests of those using the services.

Need for input

15.

NADRAC needs your involvement. It has called for submissions on this Discussion Paper. The Council will also conduct a series of public forums based on the paper. After public consultation, NADRAC will then prepare recommendations for my consideration.

16.

As the Alternative Dispute Resolution community points out, communication, participation and collaboration are needed to ensure that outcomes are workable, fair and effective. Your involvement in helping to shape NADRACís recommendations is essential. I therefore urge you to promote this paper among your colleagues and communities and to make your views known to NADRAC.

17.

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