Always speaking

Monash University v EBT [2022] VSC 651

Episode 90 says one issue with ‘always speaking’ is how it may apply in any particular situation.  This case, about whether an electronic-only file is a ‘document’ for FOI purposes13, illustrates this.

Cavanough J (at [5]) held that a thing is a ‘document’ if it is a record of information ‘regardless of the way in which the thing is stored’.  He quoted from a textbook14 and 2 cases15.  The latter confirmed there is no meaningful distinction between information stored on paper and that ‘stored in the electronic impulses of a computer’.  The connotation of ‘document’ remained constant but the denotation had evolved to cover a new form of storage.

This principle is from Episode 91 of interpretation NOW!


13 Definition in s 5 of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (VIC).

14 (at [109]), Herzfeld & Prince Interpretation (at [2.30]).

15Victor [2000] 1 WLR 1296 (at 1307), Muin [2002] HCA 30 (at [104-105]).