Episode 60

Jeffrey Barnes

In R v A21, the High Court articulated an overall method of statutory interpretation.  Although judges and academics have approached this topic before2, A2 is notable for its extended discussion by the majority.  Under the heading, ‘Construction – method’, the court outlines a method to be followed.  First, the judges reaffirm that the task is ‘to ascertain the intended meaning of the words used’.  Second, the court is not going to return to any narrow literalism – cf Episode 56.  Third, ‘mischief’ in the 21st century means some state of affairs the law is yet to address.  Fourth, there is a balanced discussion on the role of purpose as an aid to interpretation.  Last of all, but most importantly, do not lose sight of the words of the statutory text.

Jeffrey Barnes – Associate Professor, La Trobe Law School

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In this episode:

Credits – Jeffrey Barnes, Gordon, Amy, Philip & Oliver.


1 [2019] HCA 35 (at [31-37]), cf BDI [2020] QCA 22 (at [24]).

2 Discussed – Barnes (ed) The Coherence of Statutory Interpretation (at 78).