Current state of play in the Australian class action landscape

National Head of Class Actions, Andrew Watson, talks the Australian political landscape and class actions.

As you delve through the cases and information in the latest edition of the CALA Report, it is useful to understand the broader context that surrounds the contents of this report, especially for our international audience.

Australia currently is in the midst of an intense political and ideological battle being waged by conservative politicians and the powerful business interests and the donors they represent. That lobby is leading an aggressive misinformation campaign designed to undermine the very important role private enforcement plays in holding wrongdoers to account.

While the introduction of contingency fee billing as an option is currently being debated in the State Parliament of Victoria, the Liberal National Party (Australia’s conservative coalition party) is railing against the moves both at the State and Federal levels.

This is despite the recommendations of no less than three independent agencies (the Productivity Commission, the Victorian Law Reform Commission, and the Australian Law Reform Commission) all independently finding an overwhelming economic rationale for introducing the one single measure that would drive down client costs and ensure greater returns for victims of mass wrongdoing.

Against the advice of multiple, respected independent reports, the Federal Australian Government has instead decided to hastily call a political committee to inquire into the same issues, one can only assume in search of a different answer more suitable to its political agenda and the agenda of its corporate supporters and donors.

In recent weeks the Federal Australian Government, which has a genuine economic crisis on its plate, found time to urgently increase regulation on litigation funders as well as suspend continuous disclosure rules which keep companies accountable to shareholders.

At a time when Government resources everywhere are required to address the needs of a global pandemic, we see big business lobbyists such as the Australian Industry Group, the Australian Institute of Company Directors, the Business Council of Australia and the US Chamber of Commerce’s offshoot the Institute for Legal Reform waging an opportunistic war against sensible legal reform and exploiting the pandemic by calling for a lowering of the corporate conduct standards big business should be held to.

These lobbyists’ conduct, and that of their enablers in political and media circles is appalling, disingenuous and misleading. It poses a real threat to the proper administration of justice if left unchecked.

Maurice Blackburn is committed to doing its part to preserve our proud legal systems, legal systems that are currently the envy of many other parts of the world. To that end, we have submitted evidence supporting those views to yet another federal inquiry into class actions and litigation funding, this time to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services inquiry instigated by the Federal Government. We trust any adjustments ultimately made to the current class action system are evidence-based and focused on improving outcomes for the victims of poor corporate behaviour, not for the benefit of those that caused the damage.

Andrew Watson

National Head of Class Actions

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Andrew Watson

National Head of Class Actions, Class actions, Melbourne

"I'm an experienced litigator in class actions, particularly for shareholders who have been victims of corporate misconduct."

Ben Slade

State Managing Principal, Office Leader, Class actions, Sydney

"I am driven to give a voice to those who would otherwise have to suffer because those who have done them wrong are all too powerful."

Kimi Nishimura

Principal Lawyer, Class actions, Melbourne

"I'm committed to fighting for the rights of victims of corporate misconduct as well as pursuing compensation on behalf of my clients."

Rebecca Gilsenan

Executive Director, Principal Lawyer, Class actions, Sydney

"I have extensive experience in running complex and novel litigation, including class actions in the areas of price fixing, failed investment schemes, product liability and securities."

Miranda Nagy

Principal Lawyer, Class actions, Sydney

"I have a strong conviction that the community should be able to expect our governments and the companies we deal with to comply with the law."

Julian Schimmel

Principal Lawyer, Class actions, Sydney

"Class actions are a unique legal mechanism that have helped hundreds of thousands of people receive compensation after mistreatment at the hands of powerful companies, and it’s gratifying to help people get access to justice when otherwise it would’ve been difficult for them."

Vavaa Mawuli

Principal, Class actions, Brisbane

"The most rewarding thing about my work is the change in scale of what we are able to accomplish."

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