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UN Day Lectures 2019: Recap and Lecture Materials

UNCCA UN Day Lecture 2019 Recap by Aidan O’Callaghan

On 23-24 October 2019, UNCCA held its third United Nations Day Lecture series. Lectures were held in the capital city of nearly every Australian State and Territory, including Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Hobart, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. The Lectures reflected on 25 years of UNCTIRAL Cross Border Insolvency Law Reform.

The UN Day Lectures brought insight into the history, utility, domestic relevance and future of cross-border insolvency (‘CBI’) law. UNCITRAL’s role in reforming CBI law over the past quarter-century has resulted in the development of key instruments which continue to guide legal and commercial practice worldwide. Particularly, the UNCITRAL Model Law on Cross-Border Insolvency (1997) has been adopted in 46 States, including in Australia as the Cross-Border Insolvency Act 2008 (Cth). The UNCITRAL framework enables recognition and cooperation between domestic and foreign courts for insolvency proceedings which cross international borders.

UN Day was generously hosted Australia-wide by the Federal Court of Australia. This year’s Lectures attracted over 200 attendees, including students, academics, lawyers and public servants – a testament to the growing domestic recognition of the important role played by international trade law. Likewise, speakers came from a variety of backgrounds, including academics, lawyers, judicial officers, and policy makers; each brought a unique insight into the role of UNCITRAL’s CBI framework and its implications for the study and practice of international trade law, particularly in Australia.

In Adelaide, Professor Christopher Symes of the University of Adelaide provided the Lecture, tracing the idea and application of international insolvency law in Australia back to as early as 1886, and in comparison, provided detailed insight into the utility of the UNCITRAL Law today. The event was chaired by Justice Anthony Besanko of the Federal Court, and additional commentary provided by Brendon Roberts QC, of the Adelaide Bar.

The Brisbane Lecture was presented by Adjunct Professor Rosalind Mason of QUT, who provided a useful exposition of UNCITRAL’s resources and CBI instruments, as well as insight into the theoretical framework used by the Model Law. Additional commentary was provided by Scott Butler of McCullough Robertson, who gave a practical explanation of some of the Model Law’s most salient technical features. The Lecture was chaired by Justice Roger Derrington.

UN Day in Canberra included a Lecture from Adjunct Professor Michael Murray of QUT who contrasted the UNCITRAL CBI framework’s sophisticated approach with the principles of comity and reciprocity previously relied upon in international relations, before examining some of the framework’s technical details, and UNCITRAL’s ongoing work. The Lecture was chaired by Judge Dr Warwick Neville of the Federal Circuit Court, with additional commentary provided by Prue Bindon of Key Chambers.

In Hobart, Tim Castle of the Sydney Bar and a former Chair of UNCCA referred to the importance of having a sound cross-border insolvency framework to reduce transaction costs associated with legal risk, as an accompaniment to the growth in world trade and global finance. Paul Cook, a former President of ARITA provided the commentary, and remarked on impact for Tasmanian industry and employees of global insolvencies. The Hobart session was well attended by over 30 practitioners, academics and students and was chaired by Judge Barbara Baker of the Federal Magistrates Court.

In Melbourne, the UN Day Lecture was provided by Stewart Maiden QC of the Victorian Bar, who highlighted the necessary imperfections of cross-border insolvency law in Australia, as revealed by recent case law, and the ongoing role of UNCITRAL in addressing them. In his commentary, Dr Neil Hannan of Thomson Geer highlighted the internationality of UNCITRAL’s CBI framework, noting the need for domestic authorities to properly balance the law’s features, as revealed in Australia through the example of Maritime Stays and Claims. The Lecture was chaired by Justice David O’Callaghan of the Federal Court.

The Perth Lecture was presented by Justice Katrina Banks-Smith of the Federal Court, with commentary from Julie Taylor of Francis Burt Chambers. Notably, the Lecture was chaired by UNCCA’s own Chair, Justice Neil McKerracher, also of the Federal Court.

The Sydney Lecture was presented by Scott Atkins of Norton Rose Fulbright, who gave a unique insight into the role of the Australian legal profession in the UNCITRAL’s CBI work, and how the laws have been received and implemented domestically. Additional insight into the practical hurdles of negotiating UNCITRAL texts, as well as likely future developments of CBI law was provided by commentator Jenny Clift, the Former Secretary of UNCITRAL’s Working Group V. The Lecture was chaired by Justice Jacqueline Gleeson of the Federal Court.

UNCCA is thankful to all the speakers who presented at UN Day 2019; their contribution to the academic and legal practice of trade law in Australia cannot be understated. Further, without the interest and contribution of all who attended UN Day 2019, UNCCA would not be able to continue its role of promoting international trade law in Australia.

As a token of thanks, UNCCA is pleased to offer all non-members who attended UN Day 2019 an extended membership offer. As such, any membership registrations (Fellowship or Associateship) made by attendees before the end of the year, will be honoured until 1 January 2021.

We look forward to seeing you at UNCCA’s next event!

Aidan O'Callaghan is a Law Student at Macquarie University

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