The Australian Centre for Commercial Arbitration (ACICA) has been anointed as the best non-court entity to appoint arbitrators by Commonwealth Attorney-General Robert McClelland.
Speaking at an international disputes resolution conference in Sydney on Friday (15 October), the Attorney-General said that he would recommend to the Governor-General that ACICA was the most appropriate authority to appoint an arbitrator in circumstances where the parties cannot agree upon an arbitrator or a party fails to appoint an arbitrator.
Previously, only courts could make such appointments, but the International Arbitration Act 2010, which came into force in July, means that non-court bodies can now also perform this function.
The Attorney-General had not previously announced a preferred body or organisation to perform this function.
Speaking to an audience that included the heads of both the Malaysian and Hong Kong arbitration centres, McClelland said that the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law's Model on International Commercial Arbitration would now apply to the resolution of all international commercial arbitrations conducted in Australia.
Previously, before the amended Act, parties could "opt out" of using the Model Law, which McClelland said had caused "legal and practical problems, including uncertainty", as to which law of arbitration would apply.
The Attorney-General commented further that under reforms to the Act, courts should only rarely interfere with arbitral proceedings and awards, and even then "only with considerable circumspection".
New South Wales Attorney-General John Hatzistergos also addressed the conference. He spoke about the need to harmonise domestic commercial arbitration legislation across all states and territories, based on the Model Law, which would "create national consistency in the regulation and conduct of international and domestic commercial arbitration".
New South Wales was the first state to enact such reforms, with the Commercial Arbitration Act 2010 commencing on 1 October, repealing the old Act, dating back to 1984.
Hatzistergos also told the conference that he would seek leave to act as amicus curiae, someone who volunteers information to assist a court, to ensure the High Court is fully informed about changes to international and domestic arbitration law.
Hatzistergos added that he would do this, in line with similar action from arbitration bodies including ACICA, the Australian International Disputes Centre and the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, in order to assist the High Court in a case where it recently granted leave to appeal. Hatzistergos said the case "raises important issues for the future of arbitration in Australia".