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IA hits Melbourne

AUSTRALIA took another important step in its quest to become a recognised International Arbitration (IA) centre last week when the national body charged with promoting global dispute resolution…

AUSTRALIA took another important step in its quest to become a recognised International Arbitration (IA) centre last week when the national body charged with promoting global dispute resolution opened its doors in Melbourne.

The Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration (ACICA), which earlier this year was revived in Sydney, will now operate out of the country’s two largest cities after the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) agreed to accommodate operations.

Joining ACICA in Melbourne is domestic mediation body, Australian Commercial Disputes Centre (ACDC). The two organisations have been working closely together from Sydney since reaching a landmark MOU in May.

Michael Pryles, ACICA president, said he was delighted that IA in Australia had effectively doubled its reach.

“Sydney and Melbourne are our two major commercial centres,” said Pryles, who is also a consultant with Clayton Utz. “If you look at Melbourne, a large number of the top 200 companies head offices are there, so it’s appropriate we are too.”

Pursuant to an agreement officially finalised last week, the LIV will dedicate an office and staff to handle IA enquiries and arrange hearings. Institute CEO John Cain said the scheme was expected to commence in January or February 2004.

“It’s early days and we’re not exactly sure what will be required in terms of staff and facilities,” he said. “Initially, there will definitely be one staff member to facilitate.”

Cain declined to elaborate on the specifics of any funding the LIV may supply to support Melbourne operations. According to Pryles, however, current funding for the ACICA/ACDC joint venture — from large law firms, State and Federal Governments and services rendered — would be primarily relied upon.

Despite the apparent seamless financial support arrangements for each office, the LIV’s cooperation differentiates the Victorian arm from its northern counterpart, which has performed for the past six months without the formal backing of the Law Society of NSW.

Cain said the LIV was keen to get involved on behalf of members and pointed to the guild’s International Law Briefing Committee, chaired by current president Bill O’Shea, as evidence of its commitment to promoting legal expertise on a global scale.

“It [housing ACICA] sits well with the Committee, it’s a good synergy,” Cain added.

Pryles said that as a result of the LIV’s involvement, members would receive discounts on ACICA/ACDC-run conferences and seminars. Quizzed on the possibility of enlisting the support of other law societies, Pryles said no discussions had taken place as yet.

“But it is our policy to cooperate with other bodies as far as possible,” he concluded.

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