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Public policy in the judicial enforcement of arbitral awards: lessons for and from Australia
(2005)
  • Winnie Ma, Bond University
Abstract

Judicial enforcement of arbitral awards is necessary where there is no voluntary compliance by the relevant parties. Courts world-wide may refuse to enforce arbitral awards if such enforcement would be contrary to the public policy of their countries. This is known as ‘the public policy exception to the enforcement of arbitral awards’. It is enshrined in the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards 1958 (New York Convention) and the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration 1985 (Model Law), which are two of the most prominent international instruments in promoting and regulating international commercial arbitration.

The public policy exception is one of the most controversial exceptions to the enforcement of arbitral awards, causing judicial inconsistency and therefore unpredictability in its application. It is often likened to an ‘unruly horse’, which may lead us from sound law. The International Law Association’s Resolution on Public Policy as a Bar to Enforcement of International Arbitral Awards 2002 (ILA Resolution) endorses a narrow approach to the public policy exception – namely, refusal of enforcement under the public policy exception in exceptional circumstances only. The ILA Resolution seeks to facilitate the finality of arbitral awards in accordance with the New York Convention’s primary goal of facilitating the enforcement of arbitral awards. The courts of many countries refer to this as the New York Convention’s ‘pro-enforcement policy’, which demands a narrow approach to the public policy exception.

This thesis explores the main controversies and complexities in the judicial application of the public policy exception from an Australian perspective. It is a critical analysis of the prevalent narrow approach to the public policy exception. It examines the extent of the ILA Resolution’s suitability and applicability in Australia, considering past problems experienced by the courts of other countries, the distinctive features of the Australian legal system, and future challenges confronting the Australian judiciary. It examines when and how the Australian judiciary may need to swim against the tide by departing from the narrow approach to the public policy exception. For instance, such departure may be appropriate for ensuring that their application of the public policy exception neither causes nor condones injustice, and thereby preserves the integrity and faith in the system of arbitration. The author’s perspective throughout this thesis is that of an academic lawyer, as she has not had the benefit of practical experience in this area of the law.

The recommendations throughout this thesis are tailor-made for the Australian judiciary. They are Australian in perspective yet international in character. They canvass certain issues not addressed in the ILA Resolution, encouraging the Australian judiciary to participate in the ongoing debate and the ultimate resolution of those issues. In doing so, this thesis contributes to refining the judicial application of public policy in determining the enforceability of arbitral awards. The public policy exception to the enforcement of arbitral awards, or its application, need not be an unruly horse in Australia.

“This version contains corrections of typographical errors identified in the original version of the thesis submitted for completion of the SJD program”.

Keywords
  • Arbitration and award Australia,
  • Public policy (Law),
  • International arbitration and award
Publication Date
January 1, 2005
Citation Information
Winnie Ma. "Public policy in the judicial enforcement of arbitral awards: lessons for and from Australia" (2005)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/winnie_ma/2/