Standard forms of contract in the Australian construction industry

In late 2013, Melbourne Law School, with the support of the Society of Construction Law Australia, launched a research project investigating current practice in relation to standard forms of contract in the Australian construction industry. We are delighted to announce the publication of our findings.

Professor John Sharkey AM, Phillip Greenham, Suzanne Kirton and Matthew Bell

The research project relied on a web-based survey (which received 295 responses representing 379 projects) and 47 interviews with key industry personnel. The research was supported by many organisations and individuals (as detailed in the Report), and we gratefully acknowledge that support. Our key findings include:

  • there is broad support in principle for the use of standard forms
  • however, 54% of respondents believe that there is no current standard form capable of being used in Australia without substantial amendment
  • 68% of contracts reported upon used standard forms
  • of those, 84% were amended from the standard form
  • the primary reason identified for amendment was the 'need to shift risk'
  • overall, AS4300-1995 was the most widely used form in Australia (used in 23% of projects using a standard form), followed by AS4000-1997 (18%), AS2124-1992 (17%) and AS4902-2000 (14%)
  • the form was chosen by the principal or principal's lawyer in more than 80% of cases
  • the dominant factor identified for that choice was 'familiarity with the form of the party choosing it'
  • the extent and types of amendments to standard forms varied by form, contracting sector and value
  • overall, the highest incidence of amendment was in relation to extensions of time, delay damages, site conditions, variations, warranties, claims, security of payment, GST, workplace health and safety and limitations on liability.

We very much hope that this Report promotes discussion within the construction law community about the continuing evolution of standard forms of construction contract.

Standard Forms of Contract in the Australian Construction industry: full report

Professor John Sharkey AM
Matthew Bell (Senior Lecturer)
Wayne Jocic (Senior Lecturer)
Rami Marginean (Research Assistant)