Why is AS 2124-1992 so Old?

Doug Vincent
Doug Vincent
April 1, 2024

Ever wondered why AS 2124 is so old? The AS 2124-1992 General Conditions of Contract (commonly referred to as AS 2124 or AS 2124-1992) is still a very well-used contract throughout the construction industry despite its age. This blog will explain why this old dog is still used in the industry.  

Where do you buy it?

The AS 2124 contract is a set of general conditions for construction contracts developed by Standards Australia. This and other variations of the contract are all available for purchase in their website.

The AS 2127 - 1992 is the form of formal instrument of agreement for use together with AS 2124, General conditions of contract.
The AS 2127 - 1992 is the form of formal instrument of agreement for use together with AS 2124, General conditions of contract. You can download it here.

What does '1992' refer to?

Yes, the 1992 is actually referring to the year 1992 😂. The 1992 release was an improvement on the 1986 edition of AS 2124, but it wasn't all roses when it was released.

This Australian Construction Law Newsletter (ACLN) said the improvements made to the 1986 version of AS2124 were largely cosmetic.
This Australian Construction Law Newsletter (ACLN) said the improvements made to the 1986 version of AS 2124 were largely cosmetic.

For comparison, the contract is the same age as the Nokia 1011, the first commercially available phone on GSM. The World Wide Web was only invented three years earlier, in 1989.

Behold, the Nokia 1011 with its monochrome display.
Behold, the Nokia 1011 with its monochrome display.

Why is it still being used?

There are two primary reasons this old contract is still in use

Reason 1: Adherence to standard contractual frameworks is common

In the Australian construction industry, adherence to standard contractual frameworks such as those provided by Standards Australia is common practice, so we're already a little stuck in our choice.  

A 2024 study by the University of Melbourne, 'Standard Forms of Contract in the Australian Construction Industry,' shows the most widely used contracts are about 30 years old.
A 2024 study by the University of Melbourne, 'Standard Forms of Contract in the Australian Construction Industry,' shows the most widely used contracts are about 30 years old.

It's unlikely that a principal and their legal representative will suggest a different type of contract. Standards Australia, as the nation's peak non-government Standards organization, undertakes the development and maintenance of standards through a process that is democratic and inclusive at its core. So, it's basically the government.

Reason 2: Changes to standards require a consensus

Ok, but can't they just release an updated version? Unfortunately, not. Although mobile phones have evolved and improved, the AS 2124 hasn't. The only thing that has evolved is the number of redlines and track changes that lawyers provide over the top.  

Does your AS2124 look like a blood bath?
Does your AS 2124 look like a blood bath?

The 'persistence' of the AS 2124 contract can be attributed to the process Standards Australia (the contract owner) undertakes to amend its standards. Changes to standards require a consensus among a diverse group of stakeholders, including industry experts, legal professionals, and government representatives. Achieving agreement among such a wide array of participants is hard, and they probably only meet for morning tea once in a while.

Conclusion

To conclude, the AS 2124 contract's longevity is a direct consequence of Standards Australia and the process it employs to update its standards. Despite any drawbacks, this process ensures that any amendments result from careful deliberation and broad consensus, ultimately serving the best interests of the Australian construction industry. While the pace of change may be slow, it is a deliberate strategy to preserve standards' quality, relevance, and efficacy over time, ensuring they continue to meet the industry's needs in an ever-evolving landscape.

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