Objective exercise

AAI Limited v Technology Swiss [2021] FCAFC 168

This insurance case (at [163]) stresses that the meaning of a contract has nothing to do with subjective intentions of the parties.  The High Court case quoted from, Byrnes v Kendall, makes parallel observations for statutes13.  From every angle, interpretation in both spheres is to be objective.

With statutes, we are not looking for what parliament intended to say, but instead for what they objectively meant by the words they used14.  This is a crucial aspect of our ‘modern approach’, on which Episode 66 about the Circle of Meaning provides more detail.  Extrinsic materials which try to say what a provision means exert little weight in the process15.

This principle is from Episode 77 of interpretation NOW!


13 Byrnes v Kendall [2011] HCA 26 (at [97]), Calidad [2020] HCA 41 (at [91]).

14 Black-Clawson [1975] AC 591 (at 613), Albert [2021] NSWLEC 1401 (at [30]).

15 Harrison [2008] NSWCA 67 (at [12]), Country [2018] FCA 1636 (at [115-117]).