Statutory definitions

SZTVU v Minister of Home Affairs [2019] FCAFC 30

In this case, the court considered the Migration Act definition of ‘fast track applicant’.  It held (at [71]) that the ordinary meaning of ‘applicant’ could not be used as an interpretative aid in construing the definition.  To do otherwise would introduce circuity into the process, as the High Court has ruled11.

Our courts have, from time to time, questioned our approach12, but this is the law in Australia– as SZTVU illustrates. In other places, it may be different13. iTip – Statutory definitions are difficult from several angles, but take special care to avoid allowing the ordinary meaning of the term defined to influence what the statutory term means14.

This case is from Episode 46 of interpretationNOW!


11 Wacal [1978] HCA 30 (at [3]), Shin Kobe Maru [1994] HCA 54 (at [26]).

12 Eg – Hu (1997) 79 FCR 309 (at 324), Malouf [2004] NSWCA 299 (at [8-9]).

13 Bennion (at [18.6]), MacDonald [2005] UKHL 47 (at [18]).

14 Episodes 1, 11 & 33, cf Pearce & Geddes (at [6.59]).