Attorney General today releases discussion paper on the review of Australian Contract Law

March 22, 2012 |

The Attorney General has released a discussion paper on the review of Australian Contract Law.  The paper is found here.

The questions posed in the paper are:

Question 1

What are the main problems experienced by users of Australian contract law?

Which drivers of reform are the most important for contract law?

Are there any other drivers of reform that should be considered?

Question 2

What costs, inefficiencies, difficulties or lost opportunities do businesses experience as a result of the domestic operation of Australian contract law?

Question 3

How can Australian contract law better meet the emerging needs of the digital economy?

In what circumstances should online terms and conditions be given effect?

Question 4

To what extent do businesses experience significant costs, inefficiencies, difficulties or lost opportunities as a result of the differences between Australian and foreign contract law?

Question 5

What are the costs and benefits of internationalising Australian contract law?

Question 6

Which reform options (restatement, simplification or substantial reform of contract law) would be preferable? What benefits and costs would result from each?

Question 7

How should any reform of contract law be implemented?

Question 8

What next steps should be conducted? Who should be involved?

The Attorney General’s press release provides:

Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said that while Australia performs well, currently ranked by the World Bank at 17 out of 183 countries for ease of enforcing contracts, we cannot afford to be complacent.

“Contract law is a complex mixture of common law, legislation, international agreements and the content of contracts themselves,” Ms Roxon said.

“For example, a contract to buy goods can be affected by common law rules, equitable principles, state and federal legislation, and UN conventions.

“By improving contract law we can help to cut red tape and make it easier and simpler for business to do business.”

Contract law is an essential base for economic activity, providing businesses and individuals the certainty and predictability needed to trade and invest with confidence.

Other countries are also considering reform of their contract law to increase efficiencies and boost productivity.  For example, the European Commission identified potential gains of 26 billion Euros from the harmonisation of contract law across 27 European member states.

The discussion paper asks about people’s current experiences of the law and whether the law could better support personal and business transactions.

In addition, the discussion paper seeks advice about the potential internationalisation of Australia’s contract law, with a view to improving the attractiveness of Australia as a business and investment destination.

“As with many debates, I expect there to be both passionate reformers and trenchant defenders of the status quo,” Ms Roxon said.

“Australia’s contract law should support businesses in creating a culture of innovation, embracing technology and looking for new trading opportunities in the Asian century.”

Further information about the consultation process and a copy of the discussion paper can be accessed on the Attorney-General’s Department’s website.

Written submissions will close on Friday 20 July 2012.


















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