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The purposive approach to statutory interpretation

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The purposive approach to statutory interpretation must be adopted if there is any dispute or disagreement as to the true intention of Parliament. Section 15AA of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 was inserted in the Act by an amendment to it in 1984. It provides as follows: - “In the interpretation of a provision of an Act, a construction that would promote the purpose or object underlying the Act (whether that purpose or object is expressly stated in the Act or not) shall be preferred to a construction that would
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not promote that purpose or object.” Given that the Acts Interpretation Act is a Commonwealth Act, it applies to the interpretation of all Commonwealth statutes. Each State has passed corresponding legislation for interpreting State legislation. The Victorian Parliament passed the Interpretation of Legislation Act 1984, s35 of which is effectively the same as s15AA of the Commonwealth Act. The Victorian act applies in the interpretation of all Victorian legislation. Both acts also provide that if a court is unable to ascertain the purpose or object of the Act from the words of the Act itself (which is inherently unlikely), it may refer to extrinsic (outside) to assist in that process. The Commonwealth Parliament also inserted section 15AB into the Acts Interpretation Act 1901. It provides for use of extrinsic materials and set out which sources may be used. s15AB states: " in the interpretation of a provision of an Act, if any material not forming part of the Act is capable of assisting in the ascertainment of the meaning of the provisions, consideration may be given to that material ..." Each of the corresponding State Acts also contains a similar provision to s15AB. Sources that can be employed in statutory interpretation include: documents attached to the Act itself; relevant reports by Royal Commissions, parliamentary committees, etc. made to parliament before the Act was enacted; any treaties or other international agreements referred to in the Act; explanatory memorandum relating to the Bill; second reading speeches; any documents declared to be relevant by the Act; relevant material in the Journals of the Senate, Votes and Proceedings or other official records of Parliament. 12
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2) Explain the ‘purposive rule’ outlined above in s15AA of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901, using your own words. 3) If the underlying purpose of the Act is not sufficiently clear from looking at the Act itself (intrinsic materials), what should the courts do? Exercise 3.2 Statutory Interpretation In this exercise, you are required to interpret and apply fictional legislation to the facts provided. While driving his car, Lee does not see a pedestrian on the road. The pedestrian takes avoiding action and Lee sees the pedestrian at the last moment.
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