Preconceived policy

AEU v DECS [2012] HCA 3

Listen up – ‘In construing a statute it is not for a court to construct its own idea of a desirable policy, impute it to the legislature, and then characterise it as a statutory purpose’ – so said the High Court (at [28]).  This instruction applies to everyone, including agencies and administrators of the law. 

The requirement to start with the text, and not some preconception about what the law was designed to achieve, is at the very core of the approach we are obliged to take.  Courts regularly remind us of this9iTip – don’t start with externally-derived policy, or you may become pre-suggested when you come to the words of the L-A-W itself.

This case is from Episode 6 of interpretationNOW!


Han [2015] FCAFC 79 (at [26]), for example.