Ordinary meaning

Compass Group Education v CSR [2021] QCA 98

In this payroll tax case, Williams J (at [195-205]) gives a grand tour of interpretation principle, with quotes from High Court cases – a convenient refresher.  One thing (at [201]), which is not so often highlighted, is that in practice it is more difficult to displace an interpretation that ‘has a powerful advantage in ordinary meaning and grammatical sense’7.

Cases explain when and how statutory words can take a meaning other than their ordinary meaning8.  But experience shows this to be comparatively rare.  The ‘modern approach’ is geared to testing for these situations, but the power of ordinary meaning in regular grammar is not to be underestimated.

This principle is from Episode 74 of interpretation NOW!


7 Hepples (1992) 173 CLR 492 (at 535-536) cited.

8 A2 [2019] HCA 35 (at [32]), SZTAL [2017] HCA 34 (at [14]).