THE CHIEF Justice of NSW, Justice Spigelman, has issued a challenge to the nation’s lawyers at the annual opening of the law term dinner, asserting that Sydney is the only capital equipped to handle top-grade commercial law work.
He dismissed the notion of a “Sydney vortex” out of hand, suggesting that the best work naturally flows to the “global city”.
“In this regard Sydney is the only Australian city that can compete with Hong Kong, Singapore and Shanghai. If we try to spread the work around Australia, no one will get anything,” he said.
However, the NSW Supreme Court is not about to rest on its laurels. In a joint venture with the High Court of Hong Kong, the Supreme Court will host the first judicial seminar on commercial litigation in 2008. The second seminar will be held in Hong Kong. Justice Spigelman described the conference as a “hands-on” affair, designed to assist the sharing of best practice information between jurisdictions.
“[This will be] the first of what I expect will be a regular conference of commercial and corporations judges from throughout the region held in Sydney,” he said. “It is an important source of information for Australian judges who have to make decisions in commercial contexts which increasingly involve transnational elements and cross-jurisdictional disputes.”
The delegations will comprise five judges from Hong Kong, and seven judges from China led by the vice-president of the Supreme People’s Court. Among the representatives attending are commercial judges from Guangzhou and Shanghai, ass well as representatives from India, Japan, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia and Singapore. More attendees are yet to be announced.
“We are now often called upon to either assume or decline jurisdiction, or to issue anti-suit injunctions. The more we know about other practices and procedures and about the judges in these other nations, the better informed our judgments will be,” the Chief Justice said.
The initiative represents a push by the NSW Chief Justice to position Sydney as the dominant legal centre, not only in the country, but in the Asia-Pacific region. “It’s been made quite clear to me that those [Asia-Pacific] jurisdictions increasingly refer to Australian authority in preference to English authority,” Justice Spigelman said. The Chief Justice also said that judges he had spoken to from Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong saw English law as increasingly influenced by European Union law “to an extent which makes it inapplicable to their own common law traditions”.
“The experience, energy, expertise and professionalism of all those engaged in commercial dispute resolution in this city — represents a centre of excellence which is already economically significant. I am quite confident that we can build on this base.”