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New legal framework launched: Attorney
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New legal framework launched: Attorney

A new legal framework for Australian businesses operating in China, the United States, Britain and 59 other countries was launched today.

The Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters comes into force today. Attorney General Robert McClelland says the convention will reduce the “procedural chaos” for service of process in international civil and commercial legal disputes.

Hague Service Convention simplifies legal processes in civil and commercial matters between parties in different countries.

McClelland said today the Convention ensures more streamlined service of legal process using a network of central authorities, as well as greater clarity, efficiency and cost effectiveness. Also, service abroad will be easier to prove, reducing the potential for drawn-out and costly, satellite litigation, he said.

Where litigation is commenced against Australians, this will be brought to their attention in sufficient time to present their best defence.

“This is an important milestone, particularly for Australian companies who need to manage the litigation risks associated with trading globally,” McClelland said.

In an article for The Australian newspaper, McClelland said: “Service of process is a significant step in any legal dispute, as it commences legal proceedings and establishes a court's jurisdiction. Service of process also gives defendants actual notice of the litigation against them, enabling them to prepare and submit a defence.”

He said service of process has been a complex issue for Australian businesses engaged in international legal disputes.

“Litigants have had to engage in time-consuming and costly research of the laws of other countries,” he said.

He said that in some cases a failure to comply with foreign laws has led to “protracted and expensive” litigation to establish whether service has been effected.

Sixty-two other countries, including many of Australia’s major trading partners such as the United States, China, the United Kingdom and many other European countries, are part of this international framework, he said.

“Becoming part of this framework demonstrates the Government’s commitment to micro- economic reform that promotes innovation and fosters productivity.”

Domestic processes, developed in close consultation between the Commonwealth and the States and Territories, have been designed to ensure that service requests are processed efficiently.

“This is in line with the Australian Government’s broader agenda to improve access to justice for all Australians,” McClelland said.

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