Giving all words meaning

H v Commissioner of Police [2016] SADC 64

Always search for an interpretation that gives all the words of a provision some meaning and effect and doesn’t make any of them redundant10.  This doesn’t mean every word has to change the provision’s scope or operation – some could have a limited effect, and Parliament may have intended others to be purely explanatory or to help avoid doubt11.

This case shows how courts approach this balancing exercise.  A drafting omission meant words in an Act referred to a power which hadn’t actually been granted.  The judge (at [121]) found a construction that meant those words weren’t redundant without going so far as to rewrite the Act.

This case is from Episode 16 of interpretationNOW!


10  Project Blue Sky [1998] HCA 28 (at [71]).  Conflicting provisions are to be reconciled in the same way: see Episode 1 ‘Hierarchy & Harmony’.

11  Truman & Truman [2008] FamCAFC 4 (at [81-82]).