Patchwork statutes

Australian Rail v Dollisson [2020] NSWCA 58

This case involved the meaning of ‘compensation’ in Victorian legislation4, and whether an old rule of linguistic logic5 could be applied to what Bell ACJ (at [47]) called a ‘patchwork statute’.  Modern statutes are often subject to patchwork amendment where there may be little debate and much compromise.

Rejecting the general application of rigorous rules to patchwork statutes, the judge said legislation of that kind rarely contains the ‘linguistic logic and consistency upon which the expressio unius maxim depends for it to operate as a useful construction tool’6iTip – take care when seeking to apply linguistic logic rules where they really don’t fit.

This principle is from Episode 63 of interpretation NOW!


4 s 134AB(1) of the Accident Compensation Act 1985 (VIC).

5 expressio unius est exclusio alterius – see Pearce 9th ed (at [4.44-4.45]).

6 Mayes [2001] UKHL 20 (at [55]), cf Herzfeld & Prince (at [6.120-6.130]).