Is the High Court Mistaken About the Aim of Statutory Interpretation?
Federal Law Review, Vol. 44, No. 2, 2016
39 Pages Posted: 9 Sep 2016
Date Written: September 8, 2016
Fundamental to the High Court of Australia’s account of statutory interpretation is the claim that the ultimate aim when interpreting a statutory provision is to ascertain the meaning of the words contained in that provision. The goal of this article is to challenge that claim, which I call “the meaning thesis”. I argue that the High Court’s acceptance of the meaning thesis leaves it unable to account for important features of the practice of statutory interpretation. In particular, it struggles to account for the ways in which statutory provisions interact with other legal norms (including other statutory provisions), especially when those other norms are introduced into the law after the statutory provisions with which they interact. This, I argue, provides a powerful reason to abandon the meaning thesis. I conclude by briefly suggesting how we might begin to develop a more satisfactory account of statutory interpretation.
Keywords: statutory interpretation, the meaning thesis, Mark Greenberg, legislative intent
JEL Classification: K30
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation