Speaking recently at the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (Australia) annual dinner, Allan Myers AC QC said that to Europeans especially, Australia is, and is situated in, a “remote and unimportant part of the world”.
That is not merely a comment on the “tyranny of distance”. It reflects an “ignorance of the remarkably advanced society and economy of Australia”, he said.
Australia is a “country is free of corruption and is governed under the rule of law. The cities are safe and the facilities for visitors and for the conduct of business are very good indeed”, he noted.
“These advantages of people and facilities notwithstanding, we lack in Australia a single institution in the field of alternative dispute resolution which can embody and promote arbitration in Australia and a favourable ‘brand image’ of Australia and the attributes of the institutions and of the legal and social environment relevant to the resolution of disputes. Singapore, for example, does this well,” he mused.
“Second, it does not appear that Australian lawyers, as often as they could do so, advise clients of the advantages of embodying in arbitration agreements provision for the resolution of disputes in Australia, under Australian law and Australian dispute resolution procedures. This is a long-game as is evident, for example, in the many Australian agreements, often written long ago, which refer to disputes being resolved under ICC Rules.”
In light of this – as well as the fact that Australian state supreme courts “are of uneven quality”, the Federal Court can, he posited, “continue to make an enduring contribution to arbitration in Australia through its specialist arbitration list, with judges of appropriate learning and experience, able to provide an Australia-wide service of high and unvarying quality to deal expeditiously and competently” with disputes arising in connection with arbitration matters.
“The Federal Court can, over the long run, create an Australian arbitration law known throughout the world for its contribution to the field of arbitration law. This itself would be another reason for people to choose Australia as an arbitration venue,” he concluded.