Importance of policy

FCT v Unit Trend Services [2013] HCA 16 

In 1998, the High Court began emphasising that ‘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’3.  Last month, this was described as ‘one of the most telling statements of principle’ concerning statutory interpretation4, and it is. 

Policy is part of the wider context to which regard must be had.  The recent GST anti-avoidance case, Unit Trend (at [47]) is an example of this, as is Hill J’s rejection of ‘linguistic analysis’ in HP Mercantile5iTip – policy has a cemented and significant role to play in the interpretation process, but it should not be your first focus and it has distinct limits.

This case is from Episode 6 of interpretationNOW!


3  Project Blue Sky [1998] HCA 28 (at [69]).

4  Macoun v FCT [2015] HCATrans 257.

HP Mercantile [2005] FCAFC 126 (at [41-43]).