Episode 97

‘Get the picture?’ Someone asking this is not probing if you have picked up that new artwork from the framers.  They are asking if you understand the whole situation around whatever is being discussed.  If you have not understood the context of that situation and the purpose of those discussions, you will not ‘get the picture’ – outcomes may suffer.  …

Coherence and fairness

Commissioner of Police v TM [2023] NSWCA 75

A minor had child abuse material on 3 devices.  He was convicted for each4 and his name entered on the Child Protection Register5.  He argued that a minor who commits a ‘single offence’ (extended to cover ‘more than one offence of the same kind arising from the same incident’) …

Ejusdem generis

Reid v City of Gosnells [2023] WASC 48

The council and a resident disputed the meaning of ‘or other purposes’ in a planning scheme covering a new council facility9.  The facility was to be used for activities including waste management.  The resident said this was unlawful under the ejusdem generis rule applied to read down general words within …

Approved forms

DWD Project v NTEPA [2023] NTCA 3

DWD dumped polluted fill on Crown land.  It said (A) that pollution notices were invalid as they omitted the words ‘on reasonable grounds’ after ‘I believe’11, and (B) that the notices therefore could not sustain convictions for non-compliance – both rejected.

Substantial rather than strict compliance with forms is permitted at …

Repeal and re-enactment

Rusiecki v Western Australia [2023] WASCA 81

A drug conviction was appealed on the basis methylamphetamine was not a ‘prohibited drug’ at the relevant time.  Regulations referred to the list of drugs in Schedule 1 of the Poisons Standard14.  Shortly before the offence took place, however, Schedule 1 was repealed and the list relocated to Schedule 2.  The …

Episode 96

James Allsop recently retired as chief justice of the Federal Court.  What was his legacy on interpretation?  As a committed contextualist, he went behind the ‘widest sense’ mantra to explain why context is ‘indispensible’ – It gives the place, the wholeness and the relational reality to words; it helps prevent linear thinking and sometimes beguilingly simple and attractive logic with …

Legislative guides

Arik v Vicinity Centres PM Pty Ltd [2023] VSC 94

Arik had a ‘slip and fall’ accident.  A medical panel later found that she had not suffered a ‘significant injury’ in accordance with AMA guides on what constituted ‘significant injury’ for the purposes of the legislation?6 

Guides are not statutes but the same general interpretation principles are applied to …

Contractual interpretation

Laundy Hotels v Dyco Hotels [2023] HCA 6

This recent case on the legal effect of pandemic restrictions in default situation is important because a full bench of the High Court repeats (at [27]) the basic principles of contractual interpretation –

“It is well established that the terms of a commercial contract are to be understood objectively, by what a

Objective purpose

DPP v Whittle [2023] ACTSC 64

Was the offence of possessing prohibited firearms one that ‘relates to money or other property’ under s 375(1)(b)(i) of the Crimes Act 1900 (ACT)?  The answer was ‘not obvious’.  In selecting the interpretation that best achieved the purpose of the provisions, Mossop J (at [18-19]) emphasised 3 key things.

First, purpose is to be …

Treaty interpretation

Kingdom of Spain v ISL SÀRL [2023] HCA 11

In this foreign state immunity case, the High Court considers 4 key principles of treaty interpretation.

One,  statutory provisions are to be interpreted consistently with international law11.  Two, treaties should have the same meaning in all party states12.  The Vienna Convention on treaty interpretation applies rather than …