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The Honourable Murray Gleeson AC

Statutory Interpretation

sufficiently appreciated, and I have no time for the asperity that is sometimes directed towards their work. But I have a practical suggestion to make. As Chief Justice I sought to encourage the Universities and the professions to increase their level of interest in statutory interpretation as a topic of formal study. It would advance that purpose if people who draft legislation, most of whom are employed within government, were invited to share with teachers, practitioners and students their experiences and technical skills. Parliamentary counsel and their assistants, who generally are lawyers of the highest skill, have a lot of corporate knowledge, and law teachers and the professions would find it very useful to draw on that knowledge. Judges, too, may benefit from a closer understanding of the process of production of the legislation they have to interpret.

In a perfect world, the corollary of the rule of law would be that all reasonably educated citizens could discover their rights and responsibilities from the plain words of Acts of Parliament. Yet we cannot even agree on the meaning of the Ten Commandments. What hope is there for the Income Tax Assessment Act? It requires interpretation. The principles and techniques of statutory interpretation are an important field of study for tax professionals, and for all lawyers and accountants.

© The Honourable Murray Gleeson AC, Chief Justice of New South Wales 1988-1998, Chief Justice of Australia 1998-2008

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