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Brown v City Venue Management Pty Ltd QCAT 81
Brown v City Venue Management Pty Ltd and another  QCAT 81
City Venue Management Pty Ltd
(First Respondent) and
On the papers
Senior Member Endicott
10 May 2016
COMPULSORY CONFERENCE – where Applicant in Brisbane and the Respondents at the Gold Coast – where compulsory conference scheduled in Brisbane – where Respondents and their legal representatives sought leave to attend the conference by telephone – where grounds relied on were travel of two hours each way, parking fees of $75.00 and loss of wages – where no assertion made of any out of the ordinary impact or inconvenience beyond what would be expected of parties involved in Tribunal proceedings – whether sufficient grounds established for leave
Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 (Qld) s 69
This matter was heard and determined on the papers pursuant to s 32 of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 (Qld) (QCAT Act).
represented by Radcliff Taylor Lawyers
REASONS FOR DECISION
- A complaint by Alex Brown against City Venue Management Pty Ltd and Melissa Tavella was referred to the Tribunal by the Anti-Discrimination Commission of Queensland. Directions were made requiring the parties to file contentions and to attend a compulsory conference in Brisbane on 24 June 2016.
- In the referral documents, the addresses for the Respondents were not disclosed, rather the contact point for the Respondents was stated to be Radcliff Taylor Lawyers of Robina Town Centre.
- Leave was granted to the Respondents to be legally represented in this proceeding at the Tribunal. An application was filed on behalf of the Respondents by Radcliff Taylor Lawyers seeking leave for the Respondents and the lawyers to attend the compulsory conference by telephone. The grounds put forward to support the application were:
We seek leave to appear at the compulsory conference by way of telephone for the following reasons: return travel to QCAT Brisbane from Varsity Lakes given the usual traffic delays is four hours, approximately four hours to attend the conference and an additional $75.00 for parking. This matter has cost our client in legal costs, travel costs and loss in wages due to taking time off work and participation by way of telephone will have the same likelihood of outcome as personal attendance.
- In this proceeding, the Applicant has a Brisbane address and the events that form the basis of the complaint appear to have taken place in Brisbane. The parties have not contended that the compulsory conference should not take place in Brisbane. The issue for the Respondents and their lawyers in the application they made to the Tribunal is couched in terms of inconvenience and unnecessary costs for the Respondents and their lawyers.
- The Tribunal expects that parties attend a compulsory conference in person. The purposes of a conference are set out in s 69 of the QCAT Act. In essence, the conference is used to identify and clarify the issues in dispute, to identify the questions of fact and law to be decided by the Tribunal, to promote settlement of the dispute between the parties and to make orders about the conduct of the proceeding. The conference is used as a means of the Tribunal discharging the obligations in s 29 of the QCAT Act to ensure each party understands the nature of the assertions made in the proceedings.
- The Member who conducts the conference takes an active role and will in most cases conduct private sessions with the various parties to discuss points raised in the proceedings and issues raised in any discussions towards resolution of the dispute. The conferences are primarily designed to enable parties to speak openly to each other across a table in a confidential setting facilitated by a Tribunal Member who will ensure that the discussion focuses on the issues in the proceedings. The scope for advocacy at a conference by legal representatives is more limited than a formal hearing.
- Conferences are more effective when parties are present in person. However, the Tribunal recognises that in some cases personal attendance is not feasible and does in appropriate cases grant leave for attendance by remote conferencing means. Grounds to support granting of leave are required.
- Mere inconvenience to either the parties or their legal representatives is not enough. Parties will be inconvenienced by having to take part in claims brought against them. Their business and working lives will inevitably be disrupted and costs will be incurred for loss of their time in their enterprises or in lost wages. It is only when evidence can establish that the costs or inconvenience is beyond reasonable expectations that a party will be accorded leave to depart from the requirements of the Tribunal that parties attend in person at hearings and conferences in a proceeding in which they are involved.
- There was no evidence filed with the application for leave to attend the compulsory conference by telephone that the parties would suffer any out of the ordinary impact by having to attend the conference in person. An assertion was made that attendance in person would involve travel of two hours each way between the Gold Coast and Brisbane, parking fees of $75.00 and some undisclosed loss of wages. This assertion is apparently based on car travel and not on a journey by train that runs regularly between Varsity Lakes and Brisbane of less than two hours duration each way and without incurring parking fees.
- Such an assertion could support an inference being drawn that the parties and/or the legal representatives would experience some inconvenience in attending the conference in person. However, such inconvenience is commonplace and minor. The benefits to be gained from parties attending in person at a conference would not be outweighed by this minor inconvenience. This is an opportunity to bring an end to the dispute and to avoid further and more sustained disruption to the business of the Respondents. An investment of time and some effort in attending the conference in person is warranted. Granting leave to attend the conference by telephone is not warranted on the limited information provided in this application.
- As the application did not disclose that the costs and inconvenience to the Respondents in attending the conference in person would be beyond the reasonable expectations of the Tribunal that parties attend proceedings at the Tribunal in person, the application was refused.
- Published Case Name:
Alex Brown v City Venue Management Pty Ltd and Melissa Tavella
- Shortened Case Name:
Brown v City Venue Management Pty Ltd
 QCAT 81
Senior Member Endicott
10 May 2016