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Using Parliamentary Materials in Interpretation: Insights from Parliamentary Process

Author

Jacinta Dharmananda

It is orthodoxy in Australia that when interpreting statutory text, attention turns to the words ‘in context’. This context is taken to include extrinsic context, including extrinsic materials. Parliamentary materials represent a significant category of such extrinsic matter. These are materials produced as part of the enactment of the statute in Parliament, such as second reading speeches, explanatory memoranda, and committee reports. But although readers of statutes regularly refer to parliamentary materials and attribute weight to them for the interpretative task, most readers know little about them. This article examines parliamentary materials for federal legislation. The aim of this examination is to highlight factors that may be considered when assessing such materials as interpretative aids. The article reflects preliminary research done as part of a wider research project on the relationship between the legislative process and statutory interpretation.

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