OET occupied land under a bare licence terminable at will with no market value. When the land was compulsorily acquired, OET claimed compensation in what SMH called a ‘high-stakes The Castle-style’ stoush5. OET argued it had a compensable ‘interest’, namely a ‘privilege over, or in connection with, the land’, relying on the Macquarie definition of ‘privilege’.
Basten AJA disagreed. He said (at [33-34]) that dictionaries often ‘[fall] short of providing useful assistance’ and ‘privilege’ ‘may be expected to have a legal meaning which is not to be found in a dictionary providing examples of ordinary usage’6. Here, OET’s legally unenforceable licence was not a ‘privilege’.
This principle is from Episode 88 of interpretation NOW!
5 Sydney Morning Herald, ‘“Completely unfair” …’ (2 August 2022).