Class Action Australia has warned that if Australian leading class action law firms bow to the US Chamber of Commerce’s lobbying against class actions, this may end up depriving regular Australians of access to justice.
The representatives of law firms, who appeared before a parliamentary inquiry, included Maurice Blackburn, Slater and Gordon, and Shine, and according to Class Actions Australia, all these firms were members of the Keep Corporations Honest campaign.
Class Actions Australia spokesperson, Ben Hardwick, described how the interference of the US lobby was concerning after MP Jason Falinski challenged the suggestion that Treasurer Josh Frydenberg had met with the US Chamber of Commerce just days before announcing draconian new regulation of class action funding.
“We know the US Chamber of Commerce is lobbying furiously to reduce the impact of Australian class actions because they don’t like their multinational members, like Johnson and Johnson, being sued by regular Australians. It is important to recognise this and fight it. The pernicious influence of big money American-style business lobbying should have no place in Australian politics,” Hardwick said.
Shine Lawyers head of litigation and loss recovery, Jan Saddler, told the inquiry that litigation funding was a crucial part of the class action system and stressed that class actions litigation was expensive to conduct both for the plaintiffs and the defendants for many reasons.
“The disputes are almost always contested and involve all parties expending many millions of dollars in legal costs prosecuting and defending the issues in dispute,” Saddler said.
“There is the risk that if unsuccessful, the other parties costs, are payable. Quite simply, without the support of litigation funders, Shine would not be able to act for as many well deserving Australians as it does.”