The courts have heard an appeal to a Western Australia case analysed in our roundup of 2014 Security of Payment decisions:

Field Deployment Solutions Pty Ltd v SC Projects Australia Pty Ltd [2015] WASC 60

Significance

Where the court hearing an appeal from the State Administrative Tribunal of Western Australia finds that the Tribunal erred in law, it should not exercise the power conferred by section 105(9)(a) of the State Administrative Tribunal Act 2004 (WA) (SAT Act) to set aside the decision, unless the error of law affected the Tribunal's ultimate decision.

Facts

SC Projects Australia Pty Ltd (SCPA) contracted Field Deployment Solutions Pty Ltd (FDS) to supply vehicles to haul material for rehabilitating a right of way relating to a gas pipeline installation (Contract). The circumstances of the relevant payment dispute are set out in the summary of the Tribunal's decision in Field Deployment Solutions Pty Ltd and SC Projects Australia Pty Ltd [2014] WASAT 101. In that decision, the Tribunal held, first, that the Contract was not a construction contract for the purposes of the Construction Contracts Act 2004 (WA) (SOP Act) and, second, that the adjudication application had not been prepared and served in accordance with section 26 of the SOP Act. Accordingly, the Tribunal found in favour of SCPA by by affirming the adjudicator's decision to dismiss the application under section 31(2) of the SOP Act.

FDS applied for leave under section 46 of the SOP Act to appeal to the Supreme Court on the grounds that the Tribunal had not been entitled to consider whether, or conclude that, the Contract was a construction contract.

Decision

The WA Supreme Court granted FDS leave to appeal the Tribunal's decision and, although it held that FDS had made out one ground, it did not set aside or vary the Tribunal's decision.

The first question of law raised by the appellant was whether the Tribunal was entitled to consider, by way of hearing de novo, whether the Contract was a construction contract under the SOP Act. FDS contended that the Tribunal had not had jurisdiction to determine the question of whether the Contract was a construction contract because that issue had not been before the adjudicator. The court did not accept FDS's submissions and confirmed that, pursuant to the SAT Act, the Tribunal's review may involve the consideration of material that was not before the adjudicator.

The second question was whether the Contract was a construction contract. The Tribunal had held that the haulage of fill was not for 'civil works' or 'construction work'. The court held that the earthmoving works were integral to the construction of the pipeline and, for that reason, the Contract was a construction contract for the purposes of the SOP Act and the Tribunal had erred in law in concluding that the Contract was not a construction contract. However, that error did not vitiate the Tribunal's ultimate decision because the Tribunal had also concluded that the application had not been served in accordance with section 26 of the SOP Act.