Recent legislative changes will see Australia challenge regional arbitration powerhouses such as Singapore and Hong Kong.
Commonwealth legislation passed last week (2 March) has appointed the Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration (ACICA) as the sole default appointing authority under the Australian International Arbitration Act. This move removes power from the Supreme Court of the various states and territories.
ACICA president and Clayton Utz partner Doug Jones told Lawyers Weekly that this has been the culmination of almost four years of advocacy by Jones and Attorney-General Robert McClelland.
"The process of reform started when we went and saw Attorney-General Robert McClelland shortly after the election of the Rudd government," Jones said. "We found he had a very supportive approach to reform, which was designed to promote Australia as a place for international arbitration."
Jones said under the new ACICA appointment system, international arbitration matters in Australia will be much cheaper as compared to the old court appointed system, with ACICA charging $1000 per arbitrator.
Jones added that the new system will also be more efficient and quicker, as arbitrators appointed to a matter will come from a pool of over 100 arbitrators, with each arbitrator selected on the basis that they have expertise with regard to the relevant issue at hand.
These reforms, combined with the creation of the Australian International Disputes Centre (AIDC) last year, bring Australia's system of international arbitration into line with established Asia-Pacific arbitration centres in Singapore and Hong Kong.
"I prefer not to regard ourselves as competitors of Hong Kong and Singapore," Jones said.
"We may take a little bit of work from Singapore and Hong Kong, but overall I would like to see an increase in dispute resolution work across the whole region, with Australia getting some of that."
Jones will be going to Canberra tomorrow in an attempt to organise a trip to India with the Attorney-General to promote Australia as a place for international arbitration.
Earlier this year, Jones was elected president of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. This is the first time an Australian has led this 12,000 strong global body.