Statutory definitions

BWP Management v Ipswich [2020] QCA 104

The long-held High Court position on statutory definitions is that, for circularity reasons, the term defined has no influence on the meaning of the definition10.  Other courts have questioned this on the basis the term defined is part of the Act and available to be used in construing the definition11

McMurdo JA (at [51]) held that, for rating purposes, 2 Bunnings outlets were together a ‘Shop-Single’ rather than a ‘Drive-In Shopping Centre’.  Each description could apply, but regard was had to the ‘label’ of the second to imply a qualification to the first.  There was ‘no circularity’ in doing this, said the judge.  iTip – statutory definitions are often tricky12.

This principle is from Episode 61 of interpretation NOW!


10 Shin Kobe Maru (1994) 181 CLR 404 (at 419), King [2020] HCA 4 (at [18]).

11 Tovir [2014] NSWCA 379 (at [20]), Barangaroo [2014] NSWCA 279 (at [11]).

12 cf Pearce 9th ed (at [6.4]), Episodes 1, 11, 23, 33, 46 & 48.