Kate Ritchie, Boardroom Radio Doug Jones, Partner, Clayton Utz

Kate Ritchie 

We're joined by Doug Jones who is the national head of the Projects Group at Clayton Utz. He is also the 2011 global president of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. Doug, thank you for joining us today on Boardroom Radio.

Last year we saw reform to Australia's arbitration laws both at the international level and also for domestic arbitration with all the States agreeing that they would enact model laws covering domestic arbitration. What's the current state of reform in Australia?   

Doug Jones

The only State in which the arbitration reform has been finally enacted is New South Wales but Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania are all in an advanced stage of passing the uniform legislation. Hopefully Queensland, Western Australia and the other States and Territories will shortly follow. 

Kate Ritchie 

Does this uneven rollout have implications for business, and what can businesses do to deal with this?

Doug Jones 

I think care needs to be taken by business when deciding where it is going to arbitrate because at the moment, and until the uniform law is enacted in each of the States, there is a different legislative regime in some States to others. That can make a very significant difference to how an arbitration will be conducted. So I think business needs to be careful about choosing where it is arbitrating domestically in Australia.

The other thing that I think business can do is encourage government to get on with the uniform laws because it's unsatisfactory to have such a protracted rollout of a critical part of alternative dispute resolution legislation in the country.   

Kate Ritchie

Finally, if we look at commercial arbitration, is it becoming an attractive alternative for domestic business who are looking to resolve their commercial disputes, or is there still a way to go? Is it going to be dependent on the rollout of the reform?   

Doug Jones 

The reforms are the first step in a process of reforming the practice of domestic arbitration in Australia. It has suffered in recent years from being too slow and too expensive and too close to the procedures adopted in the courts.

It's meant to be an alternative to court procedure and what the new uniform legislation does is enable arbitrators to ensure that the processes adopted in arbitration are different to court proceedings and offer an expeditious, fair and economical alternative for business.

That is a work in progress but hopefully will proceed with a fair amount of alacrity because there is a need for alternative processes to the court processes for business for a variety of reasons not least of which is confidentiality.   

Kate Ritchie 

Certainly, hopefully we do see commercial arbitration become a true alternative. Doug thank you for your insights today.