Episode 88

In a recent VSCA case1, Sifris JA’s minority judgment (at [145-152]) touched on the interplay between text and purpose in resolving constructional choice.  If the ordinary or literal meaning of statutory words conflicts with legislative purpose, it is justifiable to depart from it in favour of an alternative construction that is ‘reasonably open’ on the words of the Act if it best achieves the Act’s purpose, even if that construction is ‘less immediately obvious or more awkward’2.  This is uncontroversial, and is the ‘unqualified statutory instruction’ in s 15AA3.  A complicating factor, however, is the need to derive purpose from the statutory text itself, as purpose ‘resides in the text [and] structure’ of the Act and is not found by importing external assumptions about its desired effect4.  Consequently, text and purpose inform each other throughout the dynamic process of statutory interpretation.

Michelle Janczarski – Tax Counsel Network (returning in 2023)

See here for the official PDF of Episode 88 of interpretation NOW!

In this episode:

Thanks – Oliver Hood, Gordon Brysland & Patrick Boyd.


1 Barodawala [2022] VSCA 198.

2 CIC Insurance (1997) 187 CLR 384 (at 408), Taylor [2014] HCA 9 (at [66]).

3 s 15AA of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901, SZTAL [2017] HCA 34 (at [39]).

4 Certain Lloyd’s [2012] HCA 56 (at [25-26]), AEU v DECS [2012] HCA 3 (at [28]).