We are told to start with the text while considering also context and purpose. In America, the focus is more on close textual analysis. A recent gun control case – Cargill v Garland – illustrates this1. The court struck down a ban on ‘bump stocks’, an accessory increasing rate of fire. Bump stocks, however, do not turn rifles into machineguns, which are prohibited2. Analysis was largely confined to dictionary meanings, strict grammatical rules and firearm mechanics3. In Australia, we would read the text in light of total context, including legislative history, extrinsic materials and statutory purpose. Were a choice to arise, we would select the meaning which best achieves that purpose4. In our system, ‘the context, the general purpose and policy of a provision and its consistency and fairness are surer guides to its meaning than the logic with which it is constructed’5.
Charlie Yu – Tax Counsel Network, moving to Maddocks in Canberra
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1 57 F 4th 447 (5th Cir 2023), also Alkazahg 81 MJ 764 (2021) (at 780-781).
3 cf Bostock 590 US __ (2020) (at 6), Guedes 45 F 4th 306 (2022) (at 314-315).
4 s 15AA of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901.