AUSTRALIA is set to become a global leader in international arbitration after Attorney General Robert McClelland yesterday tabled legislative amendments in Parliament.
Australia's leading arbitration body today welcomed the government reform, saying it will help position the country as a key player in international commercial arbitration.
Australian Centre for Commercial International Arbitration president Douglas Jones told The New Lawyer the reform is long overdue.
He said new legislation would encourage both Australian and non-Australian parties to have their international arbitrations held in Australia.
"We as a country have got significant advantages I think, with a well developed legal system and very competent practitioners to take advantage of that," he said.
"Arbitration is a multi-billion industry in other places - in SIngapore, Hong Kong, London, all of them see that it adds huge value to the local economy in a range of areas," said Jones.
"It offers flexibility, enforceability and cost efficiency for parties in dispute.
"The anticipated increase of international arbitrations in Australia will provide considerable financial benefits to the Australian economy."
Jones, who is also a partner at Clayton Utz, said law firms are investing in the venture because "they see it as providing huge opportunity to build local practices in this area, as our colleagues in London and other places have done over the year. It's a huge opportunity for lawyers".
Australia's top legal officers, the various state Attorneys General, agreed to push for new legislation to help ease the overly-litigious nature of arbitration when they met at the beginning of this month.
At the time, McClelland said there is a widespread view that arbitration has become too litigious, with proceedings increasingly resembling those of a court.
"We want to make sure that arbitration fulfills its potential as a genuinely quick and effective way to resolve commercial disputes," he said.
The Standing Committee of Attorneys General (SCAG) had in April agreed to reform the uniform Commercial Arbitration Act, a model bill adopted by each state and territory to regulate domestic commercial arbitration.