Impracticable outcomes

Ex parte Northern Land Council [2024] NTSC 34

Episode 1 drew attention to comments by Nettle J about statutory obligations which are ‘impossible or impracticable’ to comply with10.  This case (at [26-27]) says that impracticable consequences should be avoided where the provisions ‘are susceptible to an alternative construction’11.  Further, it was not to be inferred that parliament intends ‘to require something that may prove to be impracticable’12.

This issue arose in the context of it being all but impossible for the NLC to attribute unallocated trust funds as required by the legislation13.  The wider point to make is that caution is to be exercised in all situations raising ‘impracticable consequences’14.

This principle is from Episode 108 of interpretation NOW!


10 Uelese [2015] HCA 15 [100], cf Lactalis [2022] FCA 1087 [29].

11 Herzfeld & Prince 2nd ed [9.30], Pearce 10th ed [2.61-2.65], BDM Ch 27.

12 Uelese [2015] HCA 15 [100] applied, cf SSC Plenty Road [2015] VSC 631 [98].

13 s 35(11) of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Cth).

14 Australian Tea Tree [2002] FCA 1127 [44], cf Episode 1 (lower left).