In WTE Co-generation and Visy Energy Pty Ltd v RCR Energy Pty Ltd and RCR Tomlinson Ltd [2013] VSC 314, , the Victorian Supreme Court, Vickery J, the Judge in Charge of the Technology List, was considering an application for a stay on the basis that the plaintiff has not complied with a dispute resolution clause requiring a meeting between senior management. His Honour reviewed the cases and set out the principles applying as follows:

PULLING THE THREADS TOGETHER, THE FOLLOWING PRINCIPLES MAY BE STATED AS TO A STAY SHOULD BE GRANTED WHERE A CONTRACTUAL DISPUTE RESOLUTION PROCESS IS EXPRESSED TO BE A PRE-CONDITION TO LITIGATION, AND WHERE THE ENFORCEABILITY OF SUCH PROVISION IS PUT IN ISSUE: 1. The general rule is that equity will not order specific performance of a dispute resolution clause, notwithstanding that it may satisfy the legal requirements necessary for the court to determine that the clause is enforceable.  This is because supervision of performance pursuant to the clause would be untenable. 2. The Court may, however, effectively achieve enforcement of a dispute resolution clause by default, by ordering that a proceeding commenced in respect of a dispute subject to the clause, be stayed or adjourned until such time as the process referred to in the clause, is completed.  What is enforced by this means is not co-operation and consent of the parties but participation in a process from which consent might come. 3. A circumstance which will operate to preclude the ordering of a stay on this ground arises where the particular dispute resolution clause is determined to be unenforceable, as where for example, the clause is found to be uncertain. 4. Dispute resolution clauses in contracts should be construed robustly to give them commercial effect.  The modern approach to the construction of commercial agreements is generally to endeavour to uphold the bargain by eschewing a narrow or pedantic approach in favour of a commercially sensible construction, unless irremediable obscurity or a like fundamental flaw indicates that there is, in fact, no agreement. 5. Honest business people who approach a dispute about an existing contract will often be able to settle it.  If business people are prepared in the exercise of their commercial judgment to constrain themselves by reference to express words that are broad and general, but which nevertheless have sensible and ascribable meaning, the task of the court is to give effect to and not to impede such solemn express contractual provisions.  Uncertainty of proof does not detract from there being a real obligation with real content. 6. A dispute resolution clause in a contract, consistently with public policy in promoting efficient dispute resolution, especially commercial dispute resolution, requires that, where possible, enforceable content be given to contractual dispute resolution clauses. 7. The trend of recent authority is in favour of construing dispute resolution clauses where possible, in a way that will enable those clauses to work as the parties appear to have intended, and to be relatively slow to declare such provisions void either for uncertainty or as an attempt to oust the jurisdiction of the court. 8. The court does not need to see a set of rules set out in advance by which the agreement, if any, between the parties may in fact be achieved.  The process need not be overly structured.  However, the process from which consent might come must be sufficiently certain to be enforceable.  A contract which leaves the process or model to be utilized for the dispute resolution ill defined, or the subject of further negotiation and agreement, will be uncertain and unenforceable. 9. An agreement to agree to another agreement may be incomplete if it lacks  the essential terms of the future bargain. 10. An agreement to negotiate, if viewed as an agreement to behave in a particular way, may be uncertain, but is not incomplete.  The relevant question is whether the clause has certain content. 11. An obligation to undertake discussions about a subject in an honest and genuine attempt to reach an identified result is not incomplete. His Honour concluded on the facts that the stay should be refused, in particular, on the ground that the particular clause, requiring the parties to “meet to attempt to resolve the dispute or to agree on methods for doing so”, was unenforceable. His Honour noted that further agreement would be required before the process could proceed. At paragraph 46:

It is one thing for a court to strive to give commercial effect to an imperfectly drafted contractual clause, which is well accepted as the approach to construction of contractual terms.  It is also accepted that a valid dispute resolution clause does not require a set of rules to be set out in advance which directs the parties how an agreement is to be achieved, if agreement is possible.  But, as a minimum, what is necessary for a valid and enforceable dispute resolution clause, is to set out the process or model to be employed, and in a manner which does not leave this to further agreement.  It is not for the court to substitute its own mechanism where the parties have failed to agree upon it in their contract.  To do otherwise would involve the court in contractual drafting, which is a distinctly different exercise from contractual construction of imprecise terms.