Judgment words

Australian Building Systems [2015] HCA 48

When interpreting statutes, we are to start and finish with the statutory words8, not to substitute what a minister may say for those words9.  In the ABS case (at [227]), Gordon J observed that judicial decisions ‘are not substitutes for the text of legislation’ either, something that follows from the separation of powers under our Constitution. 

Judicial statements ‘must never be allowed to supplant or supersede … proper construction’10.  Don’t read what judges say about provisions in isolation from both their reasoning and from the provisions themselves11iTip – you should always return to the statutory text in your interpretive journey and anchor your answers in that text!

This case is from Episode 9 of interpretationNOW!


Consolidated Media Holdings [2012] HCA 55 (at [39]), for example.

9  Bolton (1987) 162 CLR 514 (at 518), PM [2008] FCA 1886 (at [47]).

10 Ogden [1968] UKPC 28 (at 5), Stanley [2014] FCA 644 (at [74]).

11 Comcare v PVYW [2013] HCA 41 (at [15-16]).