Singular & plural

Plaintiff B15a v Minister [2015] HCA 24

If words of an Act are in the singular, they are presumed to include the plural (and vice versa) unless a contrary intention appears – see s 23 of the Acts Interpretation Act 19011.

In this High Court case, however, Kiefel J (at [8]) rejected the idea that ‘a parent’ should be read only in the plural (that is, as ‘both parents’).  The singular/plural presumption cannot be used to exclude the form used in the Act.  iTip 1 – use this presumption to broaden the scope of nouns in statutes, not to reduce them.  iTip 2 – it will be a rare case where the presumption is denied due to contrary intention.

This case is from Episode 3 of interpretationNOW!


Pearce & Geddes (at [6.39]), Messenger Press[2013] FCAFC 77 (at [57]).