Legislative intention

Corliss v R [2020] NSWCCA 65

The High Court position is that legislative intention is an output of the interpretative process – that is, what parliament is objectively taken to have intended by the words used13.  2 judges in this case now add their names to others who doubt this14.

Johnson J said that to reduce intention to a label for the outcome of constructional choice is to miss the point15.  This continues a mood against exclusion of ‘intention’ as a meaningful input into the process of interpretation.  3 things can be noted – (1) a purpose analysis would produce the same result, (2) the wider debate is largely of semantic interest, and (3) the comment by Johnson J does not change the law.

This principle is from Episode 61 of interpretation NOW!


13 Lacey [2011] HCA 10 (at [43]), Episodes 1, 29, 36 & 43.

14 Ekins & Goldsworthy (2014) 36 Sydney Law Review 39, for example.

15 Outback [2019] HCA 2 (at [77]), cf Pearce 9th ed (at [2.4]), Episode 46.