General & special provisions

Totten v Secretary [2016] AATA 240

If a specific provision conflicts with a more general one in the same or an earlier statute, there is a general rule that the specific provision prevails.  However, the conflict must first be completely irreconcilable11, as all words of an Act should be given effect where possible12.

In this case (at [20-26]), the rule did not apply as the two provisions could coexist – their difference was ‘deliberately provided for in the legislation’.  Ultimately, the rule is simply an aid in the broader search for legislative intention13iTip – always consider whether the specific provision was intended to override the general one.

This case is from Episode 14 of interpretationNOW!


11  Purcell (1985) 60 ALR 652 (at 657); Pearce & Geddes (at [4.40, 7.20]).

12  See Episode 1 ‘Hierarchy & harmony’.

13  Associated Minerals (1974) 4 ALR 353 (at 359); Pearce & Geddes (at [7.22]).