Overlapping statutes

NSW Commissioner of Police v Cottle [2022] HCA 7

On being compulsorily retired under police laws, Cottle sued for unfair dismissal4.  One issue was whether those laws blocked this action.  Answer – ‘no’.  Overlapping statutes ‘should be construed in a way that best achieves a harmonious result’5, even if sometimes they cannot ‘stand or live together’6.

The first obligation, however, is to seek a coherent operation of both together.  The presumption that statutes do not contradict one another will be excluded only where the evidence from all sources shows that harmonious co-operation is not possible.  iTip – start with a ‘live and let live’ approach where statutes overlap then assess all the evidence.

This principle is from Episode 83 of interpretation NOW!


4 s 72A Police Act 1990 (NSW), s 84(1) Industrial Relations Act 1996 (NSW).

5 Eaton [2013] HCA 2 at [78]), Project Blue Sky [1998] HCA 28 (at [70]).

6 Eaton [2013] HCA 2 at [48]), Ferdinands [2006] HCA 5 (at [18]).