3 Ways to Protect Yourself in the Game of Contracts

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Note: All views expressed in this podcast are Former Mayor Penny Taylors and do not represent the views of Subiaco Council itself.


Subiaco is a city suburb centred on the hustle and bustle of small boutiques and high end shopping, stylish cafe’s, wine bars and gastropubs. But beneath the hustle and bustle and liveliness of Subiaco is a huge amount of debilitations threatening the city’s liveliness. 

In this episode, I’m continuing my chat with the Former Mayor of Subiaco Penny Taylor. In part one, Penny revealed a massive amount of dysfunction in Subiaco Council. If you are yet to listen to part one, make sure you go back to listen that episode first. In part two, we will be diving deeper into the dysfunction. We talk about the impacts on Penny herself, and also on the community as a whole in Subiaco along with the potential solutions to change things for the better going forwards. 


In the ep you’ll find out about:

  1. Local Governments lack of code of conduct 
  2. The changes being made for Subiaco’s future
  3. The false dichotomy in Subiaco
  4. Why Subiaco Counsellors don’t take the blame for the current dysfunction

And more…


Discussion Points:

00:00 Introduction 

02:04 The false dichotomy in Subiaco

02:30 Business becoming marginal in Subiaco

06:43 The motion of no confidence meeting

13:41 Post football plan

19:15 Obstacles to getting things done

20:14 The impact of dysfunction to Subiaco itself 

15:53 The impact to Penny the Mayor

28:06 The impact to Penny the person

32:47 The obstacle and impacts on the people of Subi

34:57 Advice to the people of Subiaco/incoming Mayor 


About The Guest

Penny Taylor is the former Mayor to The City of Subiaco. Penny completed her studies as geologist at Sydney University before moving to the Pilbara to work in the mining industry. Throughout Penny’s career in mining she worked across project management and following mining she, together with her husband started a family business servicing the resources industry. Following this, Penny then moved to Perth to start a family. 

Penny’s move to government started when she worked as a counsellor at the town of Port Hedland and ran for the seat of Nedlands in the 2017 State Election. It was this experience in Port Hedland that promoted Penny to run for Mayor of Subiaco in 2017, a role which she held until 2021. 

Aside from Government, Penny is also involved in a number of organisations including the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, UWA Little Athletics and Rosalie Primary School to name a few. 


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Listen to the audio podcast here

Question: what do you get when you take one voice actor, a popular brand of e-reader and enough time to watch civil war-era epic Gone With The Wind approximately 2.27 times? 

The answer: an experiment that proved what many of us already knew.

I’ll explain. In 2017, consumer advocacy group Choice ran a simple test. They took the Terms and Conditions document for Amazon’s Kindle, and asked a voice actor to read it word for word. 

It took nine hours. (Yes, you read that correctly.)

This result says it all. Terms and Conditions documents are getting longer. And when as a society we’ve possibly never been more time-poor, this is a problem. 

I don’t know anybody who reads the full Terms and Conditions when signing up for a service online. I would argue that it’s almost assumed that we will just click ‘agree’ in order to get the streaming service, email account or takeaway food we’re after.

But imagine if that happened with construction contracts?

Well, here’s another problem: it almost does. 

The Burden of the Dotted Line

Let’s face it: contracts are not everybody’s cup of tea. 

I ought to know: having worked on both sides of the fence, I’ve seen a few in my time.

Contracts are often very long – because they have to be. They can use unfamiliar, dangerously specific jargon and, unless you’re a lawyer, they can be really hard to read. Their circular nature can cause real problems: one clause relates back to another, which in turn relates to another. 

…And so on, and so forth. 

The problem is that in the Commercial/Infrastructure and Resource Construction Industry, many businesses don’t have a designated contract person. 

I’ve seen it many times: it’s often the super, the PM or equivalent who’s been lumped with the task of reading and complying with the document. And that’s on top of the hard work he or she puts in on site or at the office. 

When people are over-burdened, that’s when mistakes happen. And – as we know – this is not a particularly forgiving industry. 

Dollars are at stake. Reputations are at stake. Maybe even careers. 

So how do you protect yourself? 

Here are my top three solutions for safe contract management:

1.     Recruit a construction lawyer/claims expert and look after contracts internally

Depending on your budget, this can be a really good option. This person will be available to you whenever you need. They’ll learn the quirks of dealing with your business. They will prove their value very quickly – but at a cost. 

With full-time salaries for contracts experts sitting upwards of $200k per year, this becomes a very expensive insurance policy. 

2.     Engage ad-hoc legal services when you need them

The good news here is that there are plenty of firms out there who are willing to engage with you for short-term assistance. But if you’re not familiar with the firm, a degree of caution wouldn’t go astray. 

When an organisation charges by the day, there’s less of an incentive to finish the job any time soon. With a good firm, this won’t be an issue. But you’ll want to make sure you know who you’re working with so you can be sure your dollars are fighting litigation and not just funding lunch. 

3.     Outsource – but on retainer

The best weapon in your arsenal against construction claims? Solid preparation. 

Finding experts you can trust and getting them in your corner before any fights break out is invaluable. And the best thing about a retainer model is how easy it is to budget for. 

Yes, there’s an initial outlay, but it’s vastly more appealing than an expensive, time-consuming and reputation-draining dispute process. Trust me – across my career in construction claims, I’ve seen both in action. 

It’s a bit like paying for car insurance – that is, if your insurance also comes with a pair of eyes in the back of your head! Not only are you protected should disaster strike, but it’s much less likely to strike in the first place.

Whichever solution suits you – and there are benefits to all three – just make sure somebody reads that contract. 

After all, blindly ticking the box probably won’t get you into trouble with your Kindle. 

But your next construction project, on the other hand? That’s another story. 

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