In Lysaght Building Solutions Pty Ltd  v Blanalko Pty Ltd, the Judge in Charge of the Supreme Court of Victoria Technology, Engineering and Construction List (Vickery J) was considering the dispute resolution provisions under a design and construct contract for the construction of a rail freight terminal, a container paved area and a locomotive workshop together with associated facilities in Penfield, South Australia (though the Contract was governed by the law of Victoria). The General Conditions of Contract incorporated Australian Standard form of contract, AS4300-1995.


Summary Judgment:


The Contractor asked for summary judgment in respect of three unpaid payment claims, for approximately $3.13 million. The Principal claimed damages for breach of contract, and claimed a number of waivers and estoppels against the Contractor. His Honour ordered that the argument as to the principles to be applied in respect of summary judgment be argued before the Court of Appeal. His Honour then applied those principles. At paragraph 19, His Honour said:


The Court of Appeal determined the following upon the present state of authority, which I adopt and apply in these reasons:[1]

(a)           the test for summary judgment under s 63 of the  Civil Procedure Act 2010 is whether the respondent to the application for summary judgment has a “real” as opposed to a “fanciful” chance of success;

(b)           the test is to be applied by reference to its own language and without paraphrase or comparison with the “hopeless” or “bound to fail test” essayed in General Steel;

(c)           it should be understood, however, that the test is to some degree a more liberal test than the “hopeless” or “bound to fail” test essayed in General Steel and, therefore, permits of the possibility that there might be cases, yet to be identified, in which it appears that, although the respondent’s case is not hopeless or bound to fail, it does not have a real prospect of success;

(d)           at the same time, it must be borne in mind that the power to terminate proceedings summarily should be exercised with caution and thus should not be exercised unless it is clear that there is no real question to be tried; and that is so regardless of whether the application for summary judgment is made on the basis that the pleadings fail to disclose a reasonable cause of action (and the defect cannot be cured by amendment) or on the basis that the action is frivolous or vexatious or an abuse of process or where the application is supported by evidence.

Payment Claims:


His Honour then set out Clause 42.1 of the General Conditions of Contract (the standard form provision) and reviewed the facts surrounding the unpaid payment claims.


His Honour referred to a number of authorities to be followed where a progress payment certificate was not properly issued by the Superintendent under Clause 42.1. At paragraphs 29-31:


In Daysea v Pty Ld v Watpac Australia Pty Ltd (“Daysea”)[2] the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Queensland considered the position under a contract which contained provisions very similar to clause 42.1 of the AS4300-1995 standard form.  In that case the Superintendent failed to issue a progress payment certificate within the stipulated 14 days after receipt of a claim, but did so before the expiry of the 28 day period for payment.  The Court of Appeal accepted that if the Superintendent under an AS4300-1995 failed to respond to a claim for payment under clause 42.1 within 14 days, even if it did respond shortly thereafter, the Principal was still obliged to pay the amount of the claim.  Williams JA observed that a strict approach to the construction of clause 42.1 should be adopted at least with respect to the provisions for payment, set off and deductions, and this was so because of the consequences which flow from the issuing of the certificate.  His Honour reasoned as follows:

Of more significance is the decision of Rolfe J in Algons Engineering Pty Ltd v Abigroup Contractors Pty Ltd (1997) 14 BCL 215. The clause in question there was in the same terms as clause 42.1 here. The learned Judge found that the certificate issued by the Principal’s Representative did not satisfy the requirements of paragraph (a) to paragraph (f) of paragraph [4]. In consequence he said that “the Payment Certificate failed to comply with various contractual obligations as to its contents and that, accordingly, it was not a valid notice”. His reasoning for so concluding is set out in the following passage:

“… the effect of a Payment Certificate is to require the recipient to pay the amount stated. Failure to do so could lead to summary judgment and there is no right to dispute the amounts payable until the dispute resolution procedures are activated. Accordingly, the recipient of the certificate is required to pay money during the course of the contract which, at the end of the day, it may be found it does not owe. The requirement to pay money may lead to financial difficulties for the payer, just as the failure to receive money during the course of the contract may cause financial difficulties to the payee. Also the payee may not be able, at the end of the day, to refund any overpayment. Considerations such as these lead me to the conclusion that a certificate must comply strictly with cl 42.1 if it is to have the consequences specified”.

That reasoning is in my view compelling. As all of the cases I have just referred to establish, the consequences of issuing a certificate are serious. The proprietor is bound to pay the amount of the certificate notwithstanding that the amount is provisional only and subsequently may be found to be incorrect. Notwithstanding such considerations the proprietor must pay the amount specified in the certificate and take the chance that any excess can be recovered subsequently. Similarly, the contractor is not entitled to payment of anything more than the amount specified in the certificate though it may well be less than the progress claim made. Even though it may ultimately be found that the contractor was entitled to more, the recovery of any such amount must await the determination of disputes at the end of the contract.

Because of the consequences which flow from the issuing of the certificate strict compliance with the provisions of clause 42.1 is required …[3]

[Emphasis added]


Daysea was applied by Byrne J in Southern Region Pty Ltd v State of Victoria (No 3) (“Southern Region”).[4]


It follows that a certificate purportedly issued under clause 42.1 which does not satisfy the formal requirements of theclause is ineffective and invalid, or as Byrne J said in Southern Region: “… it was as if no certificate had issued at all.” 


(emphasis added)

His Honour then considered the principles to be adopted where the Contractor failed to support the payment claim with evidence and any information required by the Superintendent. His Honour referred to  the NSW Court of Appeal decision in Brewarrina Shire Council v Beckhaus Civil Pty Ltd . In that decision, the majority concluded that under clause 42.1 of AS2124–1992 the obligation of the Superintendent to issue a payment certificate in relation to a progress claim was subject to the condition precedent that the contractor support that claim with evidence of the amount due to it and with such information as the Superintendent might reasonably require.


His Honour referred to the Victorian Court of Appeal decision in Aquatec-Maxcon Pty Ltd v Minson Nacap Pty Ltd . The Court of Appeal, in adopting Brewarrina, said:


The decision is a recent, and carefully considered, decision by the New South Wales Court of Appeal which, so far as we have been told and so far as we are aware, is the only decision which currently exists on this particular point of construction of this paragraph of the clause. The point was argued by counsel for the appellant before the trial judge, in the course of which counsel referred his Honour to evidence which showed, or suggested, that the superintendent had repeatedly been seeking substantiation for the “one line variation claims”, and submitted that where the contractor persisted – in the face of opposition and request for further information – in submitting “one line claims” there must come a point where clearly the Progress Claim as presented is entitled to be regarded by the superintendent as not a claim within the meaning of clause 42.1. His Honour requested of counsel whether he (ie counsel) was able to show to him any authority where such an approach had been adopted to a claim, ie “where the claim has been treated by the court as being invalid for noncompliance …”. Trial counsel for the appellant conceded that he was not able to refer his Honour to any authority on the point; and his Honour then indicated to trial counsel for the respondent that he would not “trouble him” about the criticisms made of the progress claims.


His Honour, noting further that Warren CJ in Kane Constructions Pty Ltd v Sopov, while expressing some reservations regarding the application of Brewarrina and Aquatec as to the timing issue in the matter before her, had concluded that she was bound by the adoption of Brewarrina in Acquatec at the very least, or to regard Brewarrina as highly persuasive, concluded:


Accordingly, pursuant to clause 42.1 of the AS4300-1995 standard form contract, a failure by the contractor to support a payment claim with evidence and any information required by the Superintendent means that the Superintendent is not be obliged to issue a payment certificate to certify the payment of a progress claim.

(emphasis added)


His Honour concluded that on the facts before him, the Principal had a “real” chance of success on the material presented in the application, and concluded that summary judgment should not be awarded to the Contractor.


Stay Application – Section 8 Commercial Arbitration Act 2011 (Vic):


His Honour then addressed a claim for a stay of the Supreme Court proceedings pursuant to Section 8 of the Commercial Arbitration Act 2011 (Vic), on the grounds that there was an arbitration clause (the provision was the standard form Clause 47 of AS4300-1995). His Honour noted the important change between the new Act and the 1984 superseded Act. At paragraphs 125-126, 143 :


The use of the imperative word “must” in s 8(1), rather than the permissive “may”, which was employed  in the superseded Commercial Arbitration Act 1984, removes the court’s discretion to refuse to grant a stay, and renders the provision mandatory.  The only reason a court can refuse to grant a stay is if the arbitration agreement is found to be “null, void, inoperative or incapable of being performed”.[5]  This means that if the requirements of the section are met the Court has no choice but to grant a stay of the proceeding before it and refer the matter to arbitration.[6]


This may result in some inefficiencies in case management in some cases, arising from the potential for litigation on the same project being conducted before different tribunals. Nevertheless the statutory meaning is clear.[7]


……. It follows that a Court before which an action is brought in a matter which is the subject of an arbitration agreement must, if a party so requests, not later than when submitting the party’s first statement on the substance of the dispute, refer the parties to arbitration.


(emphasis added)

Ultimately, His Honour decided that a stay should not be ordered in respect of certain parts of the claims, on the basis that the particular dispute was not, on the basis of other provisions of the Contract excluding a right of a party to institute proceedings to enforce payment under the Contract from the arbitration clause. In respect of the balance of the claims, His Honour ordered that those claims were to be referred to arbitration and ordered a stay.





[1]               Lysaght Building Solutions Pty Ltd (t/as Highline Commercial Construction) v Blanalko Pty Ltd [2013] VSCA 158 [35].

[2]               Daysea v Pty Ld v Watpac Australia Pty Ltd (2001) 17 BCL 434.

[3]               Daysea Pty Ltd v Watpac Australia Pty Ltd (2001) 17 BCL 434, 439 [20]–[22].

[4]               Southern Region Pty Ltd v State of Victoria (No 3 ) (2002) 18 BCL 211.

[5]               D Jones, Commercial Arbitration in Australia (2nd ed, Lawbook Co., 2013) p 108.

[6] Although in the 2009 Consultation Draft Bill the provisions vested a discretionary power in the court  and more closely reflected s 53 of the Superseded Uniform Acts, following submissions from over 17 different organisations, the final Bill reflected s 8 of the Model Law.  The imperative “must” replaced the permissive “may” such that granting a stay is now mandatory unless the court finds that the arbitration agreement is “null, void, inoperative or incapable of being performed”. D Jones, Commercial Arbitration in Australia (2nd ed, Lawbook Co., 2013) p 110.

[7]               It has been noted that there will be situations that arise where matters are referred to arbitration as a consequence of the word “must” that would have been more efficiently conducted in court, for example, multi-party proceedings that will require arbitrations and potentially different findings of fact.  See: D Jones, Commercial Arbitration in Australia (2nd ed, Lawbook Co., 2013) p 111.