Consistent meaning

Orr v Cobar Management [2020] NSWCCA 220

The presumption of consistent meaning is a strong one across the statute book even though it bows to context in appropriate situations4.  The court in this case5 points out that, even in statutes amended from time-to-time, the presumption exerts its power6

When parliament uses a term (or a related one) that has been interpreted judicially in the same statute, it will ‘generally be taken’ to bear the same meaning7.  Although doubts have been expressed about this in the past, the court points out (at [66]) that it is a ‘permissible approach’8iTip – this case provides a powerful boost to the presumption in defiance of doubters and in aid of greater statutory certainty.

This principle is from Episode 65 of interpretation NOW!


4 Clyne (1981) 150 CLR 1 (at 15), Herzfeld & Prince Interpretation (at [5.170]).

5 Bathurst CJ & Bell P (at [63-66]), Johnson, Garling & Lonergan JJ agreeing.

6 cf Dollisson [2020] NSWCA 58 (at [47]) Bell ACJ, Episodes 49 & 63.

7 Yuill (1991) 172 CLR 319 (at 322-323), Alcan (1994) 181 CLR 96 (at 106).

8 Fortress [2015] HCA 10 (at [15]), Herzfeld & Prince (at [8-60]).