Text not cases

Cottle v Commissioner of Police [2020] NSWCA 159

Question – Could the Industrial Relations Commission hear a police dismissal case despite a negative High Court decision on a related issue?4  Yes, held the court.  The case is significant, not so much for the technical issue it decides, but for the approach to be taken to prior cases on related interpretation issues.

Bell P (at [58-59]) stressed that the task is one of statutory interpretation, not simply to construe what the High Court said.  The High Court case had to be carefully considered, but the ‘beginning and end of the task of statutory interpretation is the statute’5.  This is very important.  iTip – court decisions ‘are not substitutes for the text of legislation’6– cf Episode 9.

This principle is from Episode 64 of interpretation NOW!


4 Commissioner of Police v Eaton [2013] HCA 2.

5 Consolidated [2012] HCA 55 (at [39]), Alcan [2009] HCA 41 (at [47]) cited.

6 Walker [2008] HCA 5 (at [31]), ABS [2015] HCA 48 (at [227]).