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Treaty to improve trans-Tasman legal cooperation

Treaty to improve trans-Tasman legal cooperation

Businesses and individuals involved in trans-Tasman civil legal cases are set to benefit from reforms that will make the legal process easier and more affordable.

Australian Attorney-General Robert McClelland and New Zealand Associate Justice Minister Lianne Dalziel will tomorrow sign a treaty in Christchurch between the two governments on Trans-Tasman Court Proceedings and Regulatory Enforcement.

“This Treaty represents an unprecedented level of co operation between Australia and New Zealand in civil court proceedings,” the Ministers said.

Once it is brought into force, the Treaty will enhance the effectiveness of civil court proceedings in both countries. One way it will do this is by expanding the range of court judgments that can be enforced across the Tasman and simplifying the process for doing so.

The Ministers said these reforms will benefit both businesses and individuals involved in legal disputes across the Tasman.

“Being able to resolve trans-Tasman disputes more effectively and at lower cost supports closer economic relations between Australia and New Zealand and will underpin a broad range of other trans-Tasman initiatives. It is a fitting contribution to the 25th anniversary year of CER.”

The reforms will also increase the effectiveness of each country’s regulatory rules. Under the new arrangements, fines in a range of areas deemed to be of mutual interest, such as securities offerings made to the public, will be enforceable across the Tasman.

Before legislation will be introduced to implement the reforms, both governments will be subjecting the treaty to their parliamentary examination processes. New Zealand and Australia will also embark on wide consultations with key stakeholders. Ministers anticipate that legislation can be introduced on both sides of the Tasman in 2009.

These reforms are based on recommendations made in December 2006 by the Trans-Tasman Working Group on Court Proceedings and Regulatory Enforcement. The Working Group consulted with stakeholders in both countries.

Details of signing ceremony:

What does the Agreement do?

The Agreement: Allows civil proceedings from a court in one country to be served in the other without additional requirements. Extends the range of civil court judgments that can be enforced across the Tasman. Judgments can only be refused enforcement if they conflict with public policy in the country of enforcement. Provides for interim relief to be obtained from a court in one country in support of civil proceedings in the other. Allows the regime to be extended to tribunals on a case by case basis. Adopts a common ‘give way’ rule to apply when a dispute could be heard by a court in either country. Encourages greater use of technology for trans-Tasman court appearances. Allows enforcement of civil penalty orders across the Tasman. Allows the trans-Tasman enforcement of fines for certain regulatory offences, where there is a strong mutual interest in doing so.

What is the background to the Agreement?

In 2003 the New Zealand and Australian Prime Ministers agreed to establish the Trans-Tasman Working Group on Court Proceedings and Regulatory Enforcement (the Working Group), comprising officials from both countries, to review existing trans-Tasman co-operation in court proceedings and regulatory enforcement. The Working Group submitted a report with final recommendations to both Governments in December 2006.

In 2007, the New Zealand and Australian Governments each agreed to implement the Working Group’s recommendations. Negotiations began on a treaty to record that agreement. The outcome is the Agreement that has now been signed by both Governments.

How does the Agreement fit into the broader CER context?

The Agreement is one of a number of initiatives which Australia and New Zealand have commenced to build on the liberal trading environment created by the 1983 Australia New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Agreement and to work toward achieving a Single Economic Market (SEM) across the Tasman.

The aim of the SEM agenda is to make it just as easy for a business located in Australia or New Zealand to operate on either side of the Tasman, by identifying and removing behind-the-border impediments to trans-Tasman trade.

Next steps

Once the Agreement has been signed, it will undergo parliamentary scrutiny in Australia and New Zealand. Following the completion of this process, implementing legislation will need to be put in place in both countries before the Agreement can be brought into force.


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