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General / Thematic: Business and Human Rights: The Limits of the Law

When Interpretation Acts Require Interpretation: Purposive Statutory Interpretation and Criminal Liability in Queensland


James Duffy and John O’Brien

When interpreting words or construing provisions in an Act of Parliament, the context in which the words appear and the purpose of the Act can be used to ascertain meaning.[1] The catchcry of text, context and purpose has become a repeated moniker for the High Court of Australia’s µmodern approach’ to statutory interpretation. [2] In this context, the thought of removing either text, context or purpose as a primary factor to be considered when divining meaning seems unfathomable.

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(2017) 40(3) UNSWLJ 952:

  1. CIC Insurance Ltd v Bankstown Football Club Ltd (1997) 187 CLR 384; Project Blue Sky Inc v Australian Broadcasting Authority (1998) 194 CLR 355; Alcan (NT) Alumina Pty Ltd v Commissioner of Territory Revenue (2009) 239 CLR 27; Federal Commissioner of Taxation v Consolidated Media Holdings Ltd (2012) 250 CLR 503.
  2. The first Australian case to refer to the ‘modern approach’ to statutory interpretation was K & S Lake City Freighters Pty Ltd v Gordon & Gotch Ltd (1985) 157 CLR 309, 315