Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 4 Hansard (3 April) . . Page.. 1367 ..
MR STEFANIAK (continuing):
It is also something that the Commonwealth government has come to consider. States have some input now in terms of treaties that the Commonwealth signs. They are consulted, at least, in relation to certain things. That is a form of interpretation to be used on occasions by our courts and it has happened over a 20-year period. It is certainly something that the High Court does indeed do to assist in interpretation, where necessary. Whilst I have not been terribly happy with some of those things, they have been part of our common law for 20 years or so. I have been advised that this provision simply replicates what is in the common law at present, and it would seem to do so.
I think the concerns have been taken on board in terms of having just too many types of things that a court can look at. That would have been the situation before this bill came in. There was a plethora of other instruments and documents which a court could have regard to and which I do not think would have been at all suitable or necessarily helpful. It would have bogged down litigation and it would have bogged down the operations of the court in certain cases. It would have made it difficult for the profession to advise clients if there was a little bit of doubt as to exactly what something meant and it would have blown out expenses in a number of cases.
That has been clearly recognised. Indeed, there is some reference to that in the documentation. For example, subsection 144 (2), which deals with deciding whether material not forming part of an act should be considered in working out the meaning of the act and the weight to be given to the material, provides that the matters which must be taken into account are, firstly, the desirability of being able to rely on the ordinary meaning of the act, having regard to the purpose of the act and the provisions of the act or even the context of the act as a whole; secondly, the undesirability of prolonging proceedings without compensating advantage; and, thirdly, the accessibility of the material to the public. I think that subsection is very sensible in recognising some of the inherent desirabilities of statutory interpretation and the undesirability of prolonging proceedings without any compensating advantage and the expense to which that takes ordinary people.
The Opposition is happy to support this bill. It does pick up the problems which were raised by those various bodies some 12 months ago. On that basis, we support it.
MS TUCKER (4.02): The aim of this bill is to complete the process of updating and clarifying provisions brought over to the Legislation Act from the old Interpretation Act. It will restate the provisions dealing with statutory interpretation to make the law in this area clearer and more coherent and to take account of developments in the common law.
The new provisions are restated in a simplified, updated and, where appropriate, enhanced form. According to the government, they do not reflect a dramatic change in the rules of statutory interpretation, but reflect significant common law developments in the area in recent years.
In May 2002, the minister presented to the Assembly a bill which included reform along similar lines to the law of statutory interpretation, the Legislation Amendment Bill 2002. The Standing Committee on Legal Affairs indicated some concerns with the reform of the law of statutory interpretation represented by that bill. The ACT Bar Association also