Australia: New ACICA Arbitration Rules for Resolving Project Disputes

Last Updated: 28 November 2005
Article by Michael Pryles

Most Read Contributor in Australia, November 2017

Key Point

  • The recently released ACICA Arbitration Rules are based on the well known and tested UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules and provide an advanced, efficient and flexible framework for the resolution of disputes on major projects.

Major projects can give rise to complex and costly disputes. It is in the interests of all parties to major projects to adopt dispute resolution mechanisms which are suitable for major project disputes, efficient, flexible and cost effective. The new arbitration rules recently adopted by the Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration (ACICA) provide a simple and useful alternative to other institutional rules such as the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and UNCITRAL rules. They are suitable for domestic and international construction disputes of all sizes, and should be one of the dispute resolution options considered when negotiating and drafting contracts for major projects.


ACICA is a non-profit public company established in 1985. Its objectives are to support and facilitate international arbitration. ACICA maintains a panel of international arbitrators and a list of experienced arbitration practitioners. It provides information on arbitration agreements, arbitration rules and the law and assists with hearing rooms, transcription and information technology services. In addition ACICA is involved with a range of educational activities including holding seminars and conferences to enhance knowledge and understanding of international arbitration.

ACICA Arbitration Rules

When parties agree to arbitration they commonly select a set of arbitration rules which establish a procedural regime for the conduct of the arbitration. On 12 July 2005 ACICA adopted a set of arbitration rules that have been attracting a considerable degree of interest from within Australia and abroad. These rules are based on the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules but have been updated and refined. They are in line with international norms and have been designed with party autonomy, fairness, simplicity and flexibility as underlying philosophies. They provide for a significant degree of supervision and support from ACICA in order to assist parties and guarantee quality control.

As arbitration is one of the preferred methods of resolving construction disputes, particularly where foreign parties are involved, these rules should be of particular interest to all in the major projects industry.

Notable features

Notable features of the new rules include:

Notice of Arbitration and Answer. To commence proceedings the claimant must provide a Notice of Arbitration to ACICA, who will ensure that it complies with the rules, then invite the respondent to reply. Both the Notice and the respondent's reply must outline the general nature of any claim/defence. This ensures that issues are narrowed at an early stage, before detailed pleadings are submitted.

Number of arbitrators. ACICA will determine the number of arbitrators where the parties cannot agree. In making this decision ACICA will take the circumstances of each case into account, so that three arbitrators are appointed only when warranted by the complexity of the dispute or the amount of money claimed.

Multi-party disputes. Multiple parties (multiple claimants or multiple respondents) must act jointly when appointing arbitrators. This is required due to an important French Cour de Cassation decision, and will help to ensure the maximum enforceability of ACICA arbitral awards.

Appointment of and challenges to arbitrators. ACICA will appoint arbitrators where the parties fail to do so in the time provided, and will decide upon challenges to arbitrators when required.

Confidentiality. Many wrongly assume all arbitrations are automatically confidential. Because of the High Court of Australia's decision in Esso v Plowman (1995) 183 CLR 10, this is not true. However, under the ACICA Rules, all arbitrations will be confidential, except where:

  • an application is made to a competent court for the enforcement of an arbitration agreement or arbitral award or, for supervisory measures;
  • a court has ordered disclosure of documents or information;
  • mandatory rules considered applicable by the arbitral tribunal require production of documents or disclosure of information; and
  • disclosure of information or documents is required in order to comply with regulatory requirements, such as those of the Australian Stock Exchange.

Interim measures. There are detailed provisions governing interim measures. Many sets of arbitration rules provide little guidance on what interim measures are, and when they may be awarded by a tribunal. The ACICA Rules provide, inter alia:

  • an expanded definition of "interim measures";
  • criteria which must be established before an interim measure can be ordered; and
  • provisions for the modification, suspension and termination of an interim measure.

Seat of arbitration. If the parties cannot agree on the seat of arbitration, the default seat will be Sydney.

Evidence. Parties are given autonomy to determine the manner in which arbitrators consider evidence. Absent any agreement, the tribunal will take guidance from the International Bar Association's Rules on the Taking of Evidence in International Commercial Arbitration.

Arbitrators' fees. Arbitrators and parties are encouraged to agree on the fees of arbitrators. Where they cannot do so, ACICA will determine an hourly rate taking into account the circumstances of the dispute and the experience and standing of the arbitrator. This is a unique feature which it is expected will be a popular alternative to the approaches of the UNCITRAL and ICC rules.

ACICA's fees. Another popular feature of the rules is the fees charged by ACICA, which are significantly less than those of many other institutions.

Model arbitration clause

ACICA has drafted a model arbitration clause that is suitable for insertion into contracts. It has been designed for use in both domestic and international contracts, and is a safe and simply way of ensuring that all disputes are referred to arbitration.

Any dispute, controversy or claim arising out of, relating to or in connection with this contract, including any question regarding its existence, validity or termination, shall be resolved by arbitration in accordance with the ACICA Arbitration Rules. The seat of arbitration shall be Sydney, Australia [or choose another city]. The language of the arbitration shall be English [or choose another language]. The number of arbitrators shall be one [or three, or delete this sentence and rely on Article 8 of the ACICA Arbitration Rules].

Article 8 provides for ACICA to determine the number of arbitrators, taking into account all relevant circumstances. This may be desirable if the size and complexity of the dispute are not known at the time the contract is drafted.

Thanks to Andrew Barraclough for his help with this article.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions