Civil Dispute Resolution [Bill] Act

Just as the Victorian government has announced its intention to repeal the corresponding obligations for litigation in State courts, the Commonwealth Attorney General has announced that the Civil Dispute Resolution Bill has now been passed by both Houses of Parliament.

The Bill originally lapsed on the dissolution of Parliament last year, but was reintroduced in September.

A key feature of the legislation is the introduction of the new genuine steps statement. According to the General Outline in the EM:

This Bill encourages the resolution of civil disputes outside of the courts and seeks to improve access to justice by focusing parties and their lawyers on the early resolution of disputes.

This Bill seeks to ensure that, as far as possible, parties take ‘genuine steps’ to resolve a civil dispute before proceedings are commenced in the Federal Court or the Federal Magistrates Court.  When commencing proceedings in a court, parties are required to file a statement saying what steps they have taken to resolve their dispute or, if they have not taken any steps, the reasons why.  The Bill gives examples of reasons why steps might not be taken, including urgency, or where the safety of a person or security of property is compromised.  The court can take into account the failure to take steps when exercising its existing case management directions and costs powers.

The Bill does not require parties to take any particular specific step – the most appropriate steps to take depend on the circumstances of the particular dispute.  The Bill is deliberately flexible in allowing parties to tailor the genuine steps they take to the circumstances of the dispute.

The substantive obligations (on litigants and practitioners) under the legislation come into force on the earlier of (a) the date set in a Proclamation or (b) 6 months after Royal Assent.

Some notes on the bill that lapsed.

The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee’s report.

The NADRAC report.

Lid dip, Jane.