ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION
The Hon. J. M. SAMIOS: My question without notice is directed to the Attorney General, Minister for Justice, and Vice President of the Executive Council. Legislation promoting alternative dispute resolution techniques was passed by this Parliament some weeks ago. Will the Minister inform the House when the legislation commenced?
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: The Hon. J. M. Samios has taken an interest in the issue of improving access to justice in the most inexpensive way. Honourable members will recall that the House unanimously supported the Courts Legislation (Mediation and Evaluation) Amendment Bill a few weeks ago. That legislation has now been proclaimed, and it took effect from Monday, 14 November. The legislation requires all New South Wales courts to promote alternative dispute resolution techniques, instead of costly litigation, in proceedings other than criminal proceedings. The legislation allows the courts to refer matters to mediation or to early neutral evaluation, and to put in place specific protections for the mediators, evaluators and parties to the process.
The parties are able to choose the mediator or evaluator. I have every expectation that the program will be extremely beneficial. Only a few days ago I attended a conference of the administrators of one of the major court jurisdictions. I made it clear to them that I take the view that judges and court assessors are now obliged to make certain that the greatest possible use is made of mediation and evaluation in resolving disputes. I also made it clear that to a large extent the traditional court process adds to the cost of litigation for individuals, and that we must be prepared to think laterally in relation to the resolution of litigation. The old adage is that 95 per cent of matters are settled so the process should be allowed to continue until the day of the hearing and then be settled. That is not an acceptable approach. We should embrace the availability of mediation services in this State and encourage people to use mediation before they resort to litigation. As a result of measures that have been taken by the Government in the past few years to promote mediation, the Australian Commercial Disputes Centre, which is partially funded by the Government, lawyers and barristers are engaged in alternative dispute resolution.
The Hon. I. M. Macdonald: All out of the State development standing committee tour.
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: The Hon. I. M. Macdonald has interjected with the comment, "All out of the State development standing committee tour". He is right. When he and I were in the United States of America five years ago we looked at different ways of dealing with disputes. We met with mediators in the United States and were so impressed with what we saw that we advocated this scheme. The only difference is that I have been able to implement it.