A global perspective with a specific Asian focus is essential to Australia’s future, but areas of its law remain inward-looking and parochial, according to NSW Chief Justice Spigelman.
Speaking at a book launch on Friday, Spigelman said reforms that indicated a global outlook had appeared from time to time, “but they occurred on an ad hoc basis in particular categories of reference”.
In order to be successful, he said, Australia needed to develop an image abroad of approaching global issues with a global perspective.
“Regrettably we have not developed such an image and in a number of particular respects we appear parochial.”
Spigelman was launching Law of International Business in Australasia by Robin Burnett and Vivienne Bath, an analysis of the current environment for international trade, and Corporate Governance in the 21st Century: Japan’s Gradual Transformation, a collection of essays edited by Luke Nottage, Leon Wolff and Kent Anderson looking at the effects of corporate law reforms in Japan.
The need for more ambitious reforms in Australia could be evidenced in the fact that much of our legislation, including the Trade Practices Act, the Insurance Contracts Act and the proposed national Consumer Law had been enacted or proposed without consideration of their effects on international commerce, Spigelman said.
He referred specifically to whether or not laws contained mandatory rules for the purposes of private international law.
“The result is that we have judgements which determine that a foreign jurisdiction clause offends our public policy in circumstances where no order of an Australian court could be of any practical efficacy,” Spigelman said.
He said the current parochialism was partly a reaction to the traditional deference that Australian lawyers had paid to English lawyers.
“We really need to get over this reverse cultural cringe. The English no longer regard us as an inferior species. Rather, they regard us in much the same way as we regard New Zealanders: as altogether too successful for our proper station in life, of which from time to time, we need to be reminded.”