Surplus words

WAPC v Southregal Pty Ltd [2017] HCA 7

A key presumption is that all words in a statute are
to be given meaning and effect10.  Legislation isn’t always perfect, however, and parliament is sometimes guilty of surplusage or tautology11.  In these situations, the presumption doesn’t permit strained readings at odds with statutory purpose.

In this case, consecutive provisions were almost identical – one referred to the person who owned
land at ‘date of reservation’; the other to ‘date of application’.  It was held (at [55]) that context and history made the second unnecessary, and no literal interpretation could be forced by the presumption12iTip – the ‘meaning and effect’ rule has its limits.

This case is from Episode 23 of interpretationNOW!


10  Saeed [2010] HCA 23 (at [39]), Episode 16.

11  Leon Fink Holdings (1979) 141 CLR 672 (at 679).

12  Williams v Pisano [2015] NSWCA 177 (at [72]).