Purpose and context

Country Carbon v CER [2018] FCA 1636

This case considers the relationship between purpose and context.  Mortimer J (at [118-119]) said there was a ‘contradiction inherent’ in determining purpose, because (A) purpose is the ‘governing tool’ in fixing meaning, (B) purpose resides in the text and structure of the Act, and (C) the text ‘must be given meaning before purpose can be articulated’. 

The judge said context plays a bigger role than text in determining purpose.  While purpose resides in the Act, it can be (and often is) identified from external sources3.  Text and context (in the widest sense) are also to be investigated ‘at the same time’4.  There is no great conflict here to stress over.

This case is from Episode 44 of interpretationNOW!


3 Lacey [2011] HCA 10 (at [43-44]), Lee [2013] HCA 39 (at [45]).

4 SZTAL [2017] HCA 34 (at [14]), cf Unions NSW [2019] HCA 1 (at [169]).