Parties to a complaint that has been referred to QCAT are required to participate in a compulsory conference. This usually occurs after the parties have filed their contentions.
The purposes of a compulsory conference are set out in section 69 of the QCAT Act.
The conference is used to:
- identify and clarify the issues in dispute;
- identify the questions of fact and law to be decided by the tribunal;
- promote settlement of the complaint;
- make orders about the conduct of the proceeding; and
- ensure that each party understands the nature of the assertions made in the proceedings.
The tribunal expects parties to attend the compulsory conference in person. Where personal attendance is not feasible, the tribunal may grant leave for attendance by remote conferencing means (e.g. telephone). This requires an application setting out the grounds for leave.
The tribunal refused to grant leave for respondents to attend a conference by telephone, where the application was based on costs and inconvenience. The only information was that their lawyers would have to travel to Brisbane from Varsity Lakes, and that the respondents had already incurred legal costs, travel costs, and lost wages.
The tribunal said that mere inconvenience is not sufficient grounds for permission to attend the conference remotely. Inconvenience is commonplace for parties involved in proceedings, and the benefits to be gained by the parties attending in person are outweighed by that minor inconvenience. It is only if the costs and inconvenience are beyond reasonable expectations that the tribunal will grant leave to depart from the requirement to attend in person.