Common law & statute

The purposive revolution was actually a parallel shift in both common law and statute.  One week before s 15AA of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 commenced, the High Court said that ‘[t]he fundamental object of statutory construction … is to ascertain the legislative intention by reference to the language of the instrument [and] legitimate aids to construction’1.

Since then, courts have continued to explain how purposive interpretation works in frequently cited cases like CIC Insurance, Project Blue Sky and Alcan2.  Interpretation Acts must be read with these common law principles in mind.  For example, the discussion of extrinsic materials in the next box reflects both s 15AB and case law.

This case is from Episode 15 of interpretationNOW!


Cooper Brookes (1981) 147 CLR 297 (at 320).

CIC Insurance (1997) 187 CLR 384 (at 408); Project Blue Sky [1998] HCA 28 (at [69-71]); Alcan [2009] HCA 41 (at [47]).  Consolidated Media [2012] HCA 55 (at [39]); Certain Lloyd’s [2012] HCA 56 (at [23-26]), also.