Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland has introduced new legislation aimed at improving access to justice by requiring people to take legitimate steps to resolve disputes before resorting to court action.
The Civil Dispute Resolution Bill 2010 will require prospective litigants to lodge with the court a statement outlining ways in which they have attempted to resolve their dispute or, if they haven't done so, the reasons why.
The statement must also provide information which the court can take into consideration when making orders and directions for case management and costs.
"Access to justice is not just about access to a court or a lawyer, it is about providing practical, affordable and easily understood information and options to help people prevent or resolve their disputes," said McClelland.
According to the Bill, examples of 'genuine steps' towards resolving a legal dispute include the exchange of information between parties to clarify issues in dispute, the consideration of mediation or conciliation, arranging a notice of dispute setting out primary issues and relevant information, and agreeing to participate in negotiations when legal proceedings are initiated.
"These requirements will promote a move away from the adversarial culture of litigation by encouraging parties and lawyers to consider early options for resolution outside of the courts, before significant costs are incurred," added McClelland.
The Bill includes key recommendations of the National Alternative Dispute Resolution Advisory Council (NADRAC) and will work in conjunction with active case management powers introduced in the Federal Court last year.
The new measures contained in the Bill form part of the Rudd Government's Strategic Framework for Access to Justice.