Legislative intention

Queensland v Congoo [2015] HCA 17

Some people may still think legislative intention has something to do with what the collective called parliament subjectively intended a provision to mean. Nothing could be more wrong, as the High Court has again reminded us (at [36])2.

Legislative intention is really no more than a constitutional courtesy – that is, an objective conclusion attributed to parliament after interpretation rules are applied. The text of the law is the surest guide to legislative intention. Subjective mental states, real or imagined, are irrelevant. iTip – extrinsic materials do not determine legislative intention, even if they can otherwise be looked at for s 15AB purposes3.

This case is from Episode 1 of interpretationNOW!


2  Zheng v Cai [2009] HCA 52 (at [28]), Lacey v Attorney-General [2011] HCA 10 (at [43]).

3  s 15AB of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901.