Context of words

FCT v Jayasinghe [2017] HCA 26

‘No one has ever made an acontextual statement’11 … and neither does parliament!  Context is always important12.  In this case, the issue was the meaning of ‘holds an office in an international organisation’ in a tax exemption.  The word ‘office’ (at [31]) ‘must not be read in isolation; it must be read in context’13.  This showed permanence was not necessary. 

What counted was structure of the organisation, taxpayer status, and terms of engagement.  Having neither authority or status as a project manager with a UN body in Sudan, he did not hold any ‘office’.  His income, therefore, was not exempt.

This case is from Episode 27 of interpretationNOW!


11 Kirin-Amgen [2004] UKHL 46 (at [64]), Zhang [2016] NSWCA 370 (at [68]).

12 Mainteck [2014] NSWCA 184 (at [73]), Steyn (2003) 25 Sydney LR 5 (at  5).

13 cf Cunneen [2015] HCA 14 (at [57]), Sykes [1992] HCA 60 (at [17]).