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  • Following the recent High Court decision in Mount Bruce Mining Pty Ltd v Wright Prospecting Pty Ltd [2015] HCA 37, it still remains unclear whether regard can be had to surrounding circumstances in order to identify ambiguity in the language of a contract.
  • The High Court has reiterated that Mason J’s ‘true rule’ of contractual interpretation set down in Codelfa remains binding precedent.
  • However, in light of growing division among intermediate appellate courts, some High Court judges have now expressly acknowledged that there are limitations on the scope of Mason J’s ‘true rule’.

It was hoped that the High Court of Australia’s recent decision in Mount Bruce Mining Pty Ltd v Wright Prospecting Pty Ltd [2015] HCA 37 (Mount Bruce) might answer the question: when construing a contract, is it necessary to identify ambiguity in the contract before surrounding circumstances can be considered? That question remains unresolved as the High Court pointedly declined to answer it. However, the separate judgments delivered by the Court do offer some further guidance as to what exactly remains unresolved and hint at the jurisprudential leanings of the various judges on this issue.

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