Episode 96

James Allsop recently retired as chief justice of the Federal Court.  What was his legacy on interpretation?  As a committed contextualist, he went behind the ‘widest sense’ mantra to explain why context is ‘indispensible’ – It gives the place, the wholeness and the relational reality to words; it helps prevent linear thinking and sometimes beguilingly simple and attractive logic with words driving meaning to unrealistic and impractical ends1.  As a modernist, Allsop CJ insisted that Interpretation is a human-centric pursuit, not a ‘textual game’2, and not something we can leave to algorithmic engineers3.  For him4, the critical role of context is partly explained by recent advances in neuroscience on the respective roles of the two hemispheres5.  Bringing context to the surface in a disciplined, objective and open-minded way helps protect from the false certainties of literalism.

Gordon Brysland – Tax Counsel Network

See here for the official PDF of Episode 96 of interpretation NOW!

Thanks – Amanda Bingham, Annie Huang & Janhavi Bhandari.


1 Chevron [2017] FCAFC 62 (at [3]), cf Allsop [2018] fedcourt.gov.au (at [9]).

2 Allsop Advocacy in tax cases [2022] FedJSchol 6.

3 Allsop Technology and the Future of the Courts (2019) 38 UQLJ 1

4 Allsop – Thinking about law (2022), Rules and values in law (2017).

5 McGilchrist The Master and his Emissary (2009).