Episode 91

Gordon Brysland

Lord Wilberforce once said the uncertainty of words was what made statutory interpretation ‘so exciting’.  This must be one of the most super-nerdy statements in legal history.  It was made at a symposium held prior to the enactment of s 15AB1.  It reveals, however, two fundamental truths about the ‘modern method’ we are to apply.  The first is that words are inherently capable of bearing a range of meanings, especially by reference to context in the widest sense2.  Second, we are to avoid preconception about meaning in default of applying that method objectively and with rigour3.  Alarm bells should ring whenever you or someone else thinks they just know what the correct answer should be or where some answer is positively wanted in advance.  iTip – don’t be afraid to enjoy the excitement of not knowing the answer before application of the ‘modern method’ is complete.

Gordon Brysland – Tax Counsel Network

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In this episode:

Thanks – Oliver Hood, Charlie Yu, Annie Huang & Philip Borrell.


1 Maher (1984) 14 MULR 468 (at 509), cf Geddes [2005] UNELJ 1 (at 11).

2 Maunsell [1975] AC 373 (at 391), cf Mineralogy [2021] HCA 30 (at [138]).

3Certain Lloyds [2012] HCA 56 (at [26]), AEU [2012] HCA 3 (at [28]).