Statutory definitions

BBlood Enterprises v FCT [2022] FCA 1112

In this share buy-back case, Thawley J (at [119]) said the idea that the meaning of a statutory definition cannot be controlled by the term defined8 ‘is not an inflexible rule’ of interpretation9.  The issue was whether the word ‘reimbursement’ as part of the term defined controlled or limited the meaning of ‘reimbursement agreement’ in s 100A(7) of ITAA36.

The judge held it didn’t, stating (at [120]) that the phrase was ‘no more than a convenient label’.  He pointed out, however, that any rule excluding recourse to terms defined in all situations would breach fundamental norms of interpretation.  This issue has a long and increasingly tangled history10.

This principle is from Episode 89 of interpretation NOW!


8 Shin Kobe Maru (1994) 181 CLR 404 (at 419), Prestige [1998] HCATrans 279.

9 Auctus [2021] FCAFC 39 (at [68-69]) quoted.

10 cf Singh [2020] NSWCA 152 (at [98-131]), Episodes 64 & 71.