1.1 On 10 May 2010, the Attorney-General requested the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) to explore options to improve the process of discovery of documents in civil proceedings before the federal courts. The Terms of Reference for this Inquiry are available at the ALRC’s website www.alrc.gov.au. In conducting its Inquiry, the Attorney-General requested that the ALRC give particular consideration to the issue of ensuring that cost and time required for discovery of documents is proportionate to the matters in dispute.
1.2 Concerns about the proportionality of discovery costs—in terms of the extent to which discovered documents are used to facilitate the just disposal of litigation—were raised by the Access to Justice Taskforce established by the Commonwealth
Attorney-General’s Department, in its report A Strategic Framework for Access to Justice in the Federal Civil Justice System, which stated that:
The cost of discovery continues to be very high, and often disproportionate to the role played by discovered documents in resolving disputes.
1.3 The ALRC has released its Consultation Paper, Discovery in the Federal Courts, which, in particular, considers issues about the value or utility of the discovery process, relative to its costs. The ALRC’s Discovery Consultation Paper is available to view or download at www.alrc.gov.au and free CDROM copies can be ordered through the ALRC.
1.4 In order to ensure consideration for use in the final report, submissions addressing the questions and proposals in the Consultation Paper must reach the ALRC by Wednesday 19 January 2011. The ALRC encourages stakeholders to use the online submission form available at <www.alrc.gov.au/inquiries/discovery>.