- Australia enjoys a sophisticated regime for the efficient conduct of international and domestic arbitration, supported by the courts and reinforced by amendments to IAA and CAA over the last five years.
- While arbitration figures in Australia are improving, they are still outshone by other centres in our region.
- Challenges facing the development of a thriving arbitration culture lie in legal education and maintaining a competitive advantage with traditional litigation by reducing costs.
2015 marks five years since the International Arbitration Act 1974 (Cth) (IAA) was amended to ensure – in the words of the then Commonwealth Attorney-General Robert McClelland – that the “Act remains at the forefront of international arbitration practice”. Concurrently, in the domestic context, New South Wales introduced the Commercial Arbitration Act 2010 (CAA) to facilitate the “fair and final resolution of commercial disputes by impartial arbitral tribunals without unnecessary delay or expense” (s 1C(1)).
These initiatives occured at the time of the joint Federal and NSW establishment of the Australian International Disputes Centre in Sydney (AIDC). The then NSW and Federal attorneys general said respectively of the centre that it would “position Sydney as the new regional hub for international dispute resolution” and that “Australia will be the place to come to when businesses want their problems fixed, and fixed fast and fairly”.
This article considers the extent to which the objectives underpinning the introduction of amending federal and new state legislation have been effective, if they have not, why not, and what further steps can now be taken to engender the necessary culture of arbitration to promote a competitive and sustainable arbitration environment in Australia.