Statutory definitions

Piastrino v Seascape Constructions [2022] VSC 202

It is taken as read that statutory definitions are to be inserted into the substantive provision before interpretation is applied12.  To do otherwise ‘invites error’.  Delany J (at [68]) makes the important extra point that the substantive provision expanded by incorporation of the definition also needs to be read in context and as part of the Act as a whole13.

It may be easy to forget what Mason J described as the ‘cardinal rule’ that a provision is ‘not to be read in isolation from the enactment of which it forms a part’.  iTip (repeated from Episode 26) – parliament does not enact provisions as little islands of self-contained meaning, nor are they to be read that way. 

This principle is from Episode 85 of interpretation NOW!


12 Kelly [2004] HCA 12 (at [103]) quoted, with 8 other cases cited.

13 K & S Lake (1985) 157 CLR 309 (at 315), cf Unit Trend [2013] HCA 16 (at [47]).