FAST TRACK arbitration is being billed as the preferred form of alternative dispute resolution.
Laurie James, national president of the Institute of Arbitrators and Mediators of Australia (IAMA) said arbitration was not performing at its peak, lagging behind the statutory system of adjudication.
“The feeling is we had to lift our game, by giving the parties the option of going down a fast track,” he said.
What IAMA seeks to do is to bring arbitration “back into the spotlight and … try and improve some of the features of arbitration by picking up aspects of … adjudication, which has proved quite popular in recent times”.
It is largely the small timeframe allowed in adjudication that makes the process quick and cost effective, James said.
“There are quite a few arbitrations where people have smaller amounts of money, and perhaps simpler issues, and they perceive that if they go to adjudication they can probably get that sorted quite quickly, and very often more cheaply.”
However, according to James, arbitration’s many procedural steps have seen the process take longer over recent times, particularly as the complexity of the issues increase.
“So what we are trying to do is provide an informal, entirely private procedure in arbitration, which matches the fast track qualities of adjudication, which could also follow on a disputed adjudication to bring down a final decision, in the same sort of timeframe.”
Aside from the popularity of adjudication, James believes that improved processes in the court system have also contributed to the decline of arbitration. “On the whole, court lists have shrunk,” he said. “Expedited procedures are now available in court actions which weren’t available at one time.”
Fast tracking arbitration is popular in some foreign jurisdictions, while the concept is also put to use in the Security of Payment legislation in states such as New South Wales and Western Australia.
To assist in the improvement of arbitration, the IAMA is holding its first ever national arbitration day, at which it plans to workshop new rules in a fast track arbitration forum, which will hopefully be unveiled officially in June 2007.
Allens Arthur Robinson partner John Dorter will chair the forum. Dorter is an expert in construction contracts and construction dispute resolution, and is past president of the IAMA.
The national arbitration day will be held on 5 December at Owen Dixon Chambers in Melbourne.