Meaning of ‘person’

Plaintiff M68 v Minister [2016] HCA 1

In the offshore detention case, the High Court held the Republic of Nauru to be a ‘person or body’ under regional processing amendments4.  Section 2C(1) of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 presumes that expressions used to denote persons generally ‘include a body politic or corporate as well as an individual’.  Provisions like this one operate subject to contrary intent and depend on context. 

Not all statutes use ‘person’ for designating who is to be subject to their commands, however.  Tax laws adopt ‘entity’ (widely defined)5, with the ‘you’ applying ‘to entities generally’.  iTip – if personality becomes an issue, consult definitions, consider provisions like s 2C(1), and examine the context6.

This case is from Episode 10 of interpretationNOW!


4  s 198AHA(1) of the Migration Act 1958.

5  s 184-1 of the GST Act, for example.

FCT v Warner [2015] FCA 659, illustrates.