Why is AS4000-1997 so old and what does it have in common with Harry Potter?

Doug Vincent
Doug Vincent
February 1, 2024

Ever wondered why AS4000 is so old? The AS4000-1997 General Conditions of Contract (commonly referred to as AS4000 or AS4000-1997) 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 🐶 and a cool side fact about what it has in common with your boy Harry Potter ⚡!

Where do you buy it?

The AS4000 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 AS4000 - 1997! You can download it here.

What does '1997' refer to?

Yes, the 1997 is actually referring to the year 1997 😂. The 1997 release was an improvement to the suite of available contracts and talked about in this old looking newsletter from the Australian Construction Law Newsletter.

AS4000 introduced a superintendent to act as agent for the principal and in "good faith".

For comparison, the contract AS4000's released conincided with the launch of the first Harry Potter Book: "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" (also known as "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" in the United States) by J.K. Rowling. It marked the beginning of what would become one of the best-selling book series in history and a significant cultural phenomenon + equally as thick as an AS4000 issued by a lawyer to a Superintendent.

"When i grow up, i want to be Head of Capital Facilities & Infrastructure for Hogwartz!"

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 AS4000 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 AS4000 look like a blood bath?

The 'persistence' of the AS4000 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.


To conclude, the AS4000 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.

Disclaimer: While Mastt is dedicated to offering valuable industry insights, it's important to note that we are not legal experts. Therefore, our content should not be interpreted as legal advice. We encourage readers to exercise discretion and seek personalized guidance from qualified legal professionals.

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