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International arbitration in Australia: The need to centralise judicial power

by Albert Monichino

Albert Monichino SC (2012) 86 ALJ 118

The arbitral legislative regime in Australia has recently undergone substantial reform with a view to positioning Australia as a hub for dispute resolution in the Asia-Pacific region. Underlying both the domestic and international arbitration regimes is the UNCITRAL Model Law It is universally accepted that the success of the new arbitration regime in Australia depends upon uniform interpretation of the Model Law by the various superior courts. The proposal raised during the reform process to confer exclusive jurisdiction under the International Arbitration Act 1974 (Cth) upon the Federal Court was not implemented. Instead, concurrent jurisdiction was conferred on the State and Territory Supreme Courts and the Federal Court. The opponents of this proposal argued that uniformity in judicial approach could be achieved by non-legislative means – in particular, by encouraging superior courts to establish panels of specialist arbitration judges. The author argues that timely, uniform interpretation of the Model Law will be difficult to achieve under the present arrangements. He advocates that more is required to establish truly specialist arbitration lists, and that the Federal Court should be established as the single intermediate appellate court to hear and determine international arbitration matters.

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