Always speaking

Bhalsod v Perrie [2018] WASCA 108

The ‘always speaking’ concept arose in the 19th century as a style of drafting12, where present tense was used to cover future events in order to give effect to an Act’s ‘spirit, true intent and meaning’. 

Now ‘always speaking’ is widely understood to allow statutory language to be ‘adaptable to new circumstances’13 under an ambulatory approach to interpretation.  The common law already allows for meaning to evolve with society and technology where this is consistent with text and context14.  For example, ‘gas’ includes ‘LPG’ 15, and ‘taxi’ covers UberX operations16.  Provisions like s 8 in WA17 seem now to add little to what the common law provides. 

This case is from Episode 47 of interpretationNOW!


12 Jacobi Interpretation Acts: Origins and Meaning (at [21.30]).

13 Aubrey [2017] HCA 18 (at [30]), Episode 2.

14 Jacobi (at [21.30]), Pearce & Geddes (at [4.11]).

15 Lake Macquarie [1970] HCA 32 (at [15]).

16 Uber BV [2017] FCA 110 (at [52, 130]), Episode 21.

17 s 8 of the Interpretation Act 1984 (WA).