Episode 97

‘Get the picture?’ Someone asking this is not probing if you have picked up that new artwork from the framers.  They are asking if you understand the whole situation around whatever is being discussed.  If you have not understood the context of that situation and the purpose of those discussions, you will not ‘get the picture’ – outcomes may suffer.  It’s the same with interpretation.  We resolve meaning by considering context in the ‘widest sense’1, against the language as a whole2, and by reference to legislative purpose.  We look at the whole canvas parliament has painted and resist obsession with corner detail (literalism).  The point at which the prosaic becomes graphic in the human mind is a metaphor for deeper understanding3 – ‘a picture paints a thousand words’ etc.  We achieve that understanding of statutory text via context and purpose – ‘get the picture’?

Gordon Brysland – Tax Counsel Network

See here for the official PDF of Episode 97 of interpretation NOW!

Thanks – Oliver Hood, Matt Snibson, Janhavi Bhandari & Philip Borrell.


1 ENT19 [2023] HCA 18 (at [86]), Thornton [2023] HCA 17 (at [54]).

2 Cooper Brookes (1981) 147 CLR 297 (at 320), Cunneen [2015] HCA 14 (at [31]).

3 cf Bence ‘Mental Imagery’ (at [3.3]) in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.