THE Commonwealth Government says changes to Australia’s legal system from next month will see a significant drop in litigation.
More people will resolve disputes out of court, which will save money and time, said Attorney General Robert McClelland.
McClelland said the commencement of the Civil Dispute Resolution Act 2011 on 1 August 2011 will result in more people resolving disputes before going to court.
“Australia’s legal system is changing. We are moving away from an adversarial culture of litigation to a broader approach to dispute resolution," McClelland said.
“This means greater opportunities for resolution, rather than a system that prioritises ‘winners and losers’.
“We no longer live in an age where the only proper way to settle a legal issue is through the courts," he said.
From 1 August, parties to a court action will be required to lodge a statement about the steps they have taken to try and resolve their dispute when commencing proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia or in the Federal Magistrates Court.
“The courts will always play a central role in our justice system, but it’s clear that launching into litigation is not always the best approach to resolving issues."
He said people need to be able to reach early resolution of their dispute, without escalating into court proceedings.
“Parties can benefit from exchanging information, narrowing the issues in dispute and exploring options for resolution leading to more matters being settled by agreement earlier on, before significant costs have been incurred and legal positions become entrenched.
“Even if matters progress to court, experience shows costs will be saved as the issues in dispute will be better understood and narrowed."
He acknowledged that not all matters can be resolved before heading to court, and some do need the clarity of a judicial ruling.
“However, the Government firmly believes that considering resolution of disputes before court should be encouraged wherever possible.”
“The change doesn’t introduce mandatory processes that themselves could become the subject of dispute.
“Instead, it is deliberately flexible in allowing parties to tailor the steps they take to their individual circumstances and the particular nature of their dispute.”
McClelland said he is pleased other jurisdictions are also moving towards a similar approach.
The Civil Dispute Resolution Act is an part of the Government’s agenda under its Strategic Framework for Access to Justice to encourage early dispute resolution.
The Act implements key recommendations from the 2009 National Alternative Dispute Resolution Advisory Council (NADRAC) report, The Resolve to Resolve – Embracing ADR to Improve Access to Justice in the Federal Jurisdiction.
The new requirements will start alongside the Federal Court’s new rules.