I am pleased to rise to make a contribution to the debate on the Courts
Legislation Amendment (Judicial Resolution Conference) Bill 2009. Before I go to
the specifics of this bill, I register my support of and my thanks to Chief
Justice Robert French of the High Court of Australia for the paper he delivered
at the Law Council of Australia multidoor symposium on 27 July this year in
Canberra. That paper makes it so much easier for someone who was not a lawyer in
a previous life to come to grips with alternative dispute resolution (ADR)
procedures, particularly from a judicial perspective.
Chief Justice French also provided an international and
national perspective and a history of ADR and gave clear examples of the types
of mediation used by judicial mediators. It became a very real, practical
exercise for me to explore.
I am particularly pleased to have the opportunity to speak on
this bill as it forms part of the Brumby Labor government’s justice statement 2
commitment to a series of reforms to make this state’s justice system fairer,
more responsive and more accessible to the people of Victoria. The justice
system, as members know, is at the forefront in protecting the rights of all
Victorians and addressing the rights of disadvantaged people in this state.
The Victorian justice system has many features to provide for
the protection of rights, with appropriate dispute resolution being just one;
nonetheless, it is a feature that can and does provide the best outcome for
dispute resolution in many circumstances.
‘Appropriate dispute resolution’ is a term used to describe a
number of ways to resolve disputes without the costly and time-consuming
exercise of participating in court proceedings. It can take the form of
mediation, arbitration, conciliation and negotiation. As appropriate dispute
resolution is the preferred option by all parties in the majority of legal
disputes, the state Labor government sees it as a priority to make this form of
dispute resolution available.
There are many advantages to appropriate dispute resolution,
most notably the savings in legal costs and time for all parties involved. Other
advantages include confidentiality; as opposed to court hearings, arbitration
and mediation are conducted in private, with decisions being confidential. There
is also flexibility of process; each party in the appropriate dispute resolution
process has the opportunity to play a more controlling role in the process by
which the dispute is resolved.
Compared to a court proceeding, appropriate dispute resolution
is much less formal in terms of structure and rules. I would argue there is a
greater preservation of relationships involved in the dispute. I would also
argue that there is a greater opportunity for the reduction of acrimony and
The purpose of this bill is to amend the Supreme Court Act
1986, the County Court Act 1958, the Magistrates’ Court Act 1989, and the
Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 to extend the statutory protection to
judicial officers conducting appropriate dispute resolution processes that are
not specifically referred under the existing regimes. The bill will also provide
confidentiality in judicial appropriate dispute resolution processes.
We believe these two objectives will facilitate an increased
use of appropriate dispute resolution processes, which have many advantages for
individuals with the aim of resolving a dispute; it also is a way of freeing up
However, this bill does not take away the right of Victorians
to use the court system, if they so desire. If a resolution cannot be reached,
the court system can still be used. I call on the house to support what is a
relatively straightforward bill, and I commend it to the house.