Lawson v Minister [2020] NSWSC 186

This case, dealt with in Episode 59, also contains a punctuation issue3 – that being, whether a semicolon separated 2 discrete things within a schedule; or required them to be read together.  Ward CJ (at [80]) observed that semicolons may replace ‘and’ as a ‘hierarchically superior punctuation mark if the reader is not to be momentarily puzzled or misled’4.

It was held (at [127]) that context and purpose confirmed that the semicolon indicated separate things rather than a singular description5.  Past times were marked by a distinct hostility to punctuation.  The modern position is – don’t ignore it, but make sure it is ‘used consciously and not haphazardly’6.

This principle is from Episode 60 of interpretation NOW!


3 cf Episode 13, Pearce 9th ed (at [4.76-4.78]).

4 Savvin [2000] FCA 478 (at [83]), Quirk Comprehensive Grammar (at 1623).

5 cf Scalia & Garner (at 164), discussing Hill v Conway 463 A 2d 232 (1983).

6 Mainteck [2014] NSWCA 184 (at [105]), Zhang [2016] NSWCA 370 (at [73]).