In Director of Housing of State of Victoria v StructX Pty Ltd (trading as Bizibuilders)  VSC 410, Vickery J (the Judge in Charge of the Technology and Construction List) was considering an adjudication determination and the meaning of “in the business of building residences”.
“Structx” was a builder, constructing homes in Hamilton, for the Director of Housing of the State of Victoria. The Director sought to have the determination quashed on the grounds that :
1. the relevant contract was a domestic building contract and the Director was/is not in the business of building residences (Section 7(2)(c) of the Act);
2. the adjudicator erred in finding that there was no Payment Schedule (on the basis, contested by the Director) that the Superintendent’s Representative lacked authority to issue payment schedules;
3. the adjudicator erred in finding that the Payment Schedule had to be in the form prescribed by the contract (Section 15(2)(d) of the Act).
The Contract was an amended AS2124 General Conditions of Contract form of contract.
His Honour concluded:
1. (Referring to his earlier decision in Grocon Constructors Pty Ltd v Planit Cocciardi Joint Venture (No 2) ), where His Honour had said:
They [adjudicators appointed under the Act] are clothed with legal authority to make a binding determination for the purposes of the Act which affect the statutory rights or obligations of persons or individuals who are claimants for progress payments under the Act or who are respondents to such claims.
His Honour concluded, at paragraphs 17-19:
As such they are amendable to certioriari. However, an adjudicator appointed under the Act does not constitute an inferior court within the court hierarchy…..
As observed in Craig, an adjudicator is therefore exposed to fall into jurisdictional error in a broader range of circumstances than a court.
In the present case, I do not consider that the exception provided by s 7(2)(b) of the Act was intended to confer on an adjudicator the power to decide jurisdiction founded on questions of law or mixed questions of law and fact, which includes the power to decide the question wrongly, without attracting prerogative relief.
Accordingly, the adjudicator’s decision in this respect was/is open to certiorari. His Honour then went on to conclude that the Director was not “in the business of building residences” within the meaning of s 7(2)(b) of the Act, and for this reason the proviso did not operate to exempt the Construction Contract from the operation of the Act. In this respect, the adjudicator erred, and certiorari could be issued.
2. As to the adjudicator’s determination that the Superintendent’s Representative lacked authority to issue payment schedules, His Honour concluded that the purpose of the letter containing the Director’s delegation of authority (relied on by builder as not giving that authority, and accepted by the adjudicator) was to nominate a Superintendent’s Representative for the purposes of the Construction Contract, not the Act, it did not purport to limit the Director’s delegation of authority to the matters set out, nor was it evidence that the architect did not have authority to issue a payment schedule under the Act. In this respect, the adjudicator erred, and certiorari could be issued.
3. The Adjudicator also found that the payment schedule was invalid, because it was not in any prescribed form. Section 15(2)(d) of the Act provides that a payment schedule “must be in the relevant prescribed form (if any)”, however, there are no forms for payment schedules prescribed by regulation. The Adjudicator fell into further error on the face of the record, and on this ground certiorari should also issue.
4. In failing to take into account the payment schedule and the Director’s submissions founded upon it, as required by s 23(2)(d), the Adjudicator fell into further error on the face of the record, and certiorari should issue on this ground.
5. Further, in failing to take into account the payment schedule and the Director’s submissions founded upon it, the Adjudicator did not afford procedural fairness to the Director. This amounted a substantial denial of the measure of procedural fairness required under the Act. On this ground too, an order in the nature of certiorari should be made.
His Honour then considered jurisdictional error, discussed by the High Court in Craig v South Australia, and more recently in Kirk v Industrial Court (NSW). His Honour concluded that the authority of the Supreme Court to quash an adjudication determination where jurisdictional error has occurred has been reinforced by Kirk.
His Honour quashed the adjudication determination (and made the declaration sought by the Director to the effect that the Director is not in the business of building residences within the meaning of s 7(2)(b) of the Act).