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STATUTORY INTERPRETATION: THE MEANING OF MEANING
RMIT University, Melbourne School of Accounting and Law, Symposium on Statutory Interpretation Chapter House, St. Paul‟s Cathedral 13 August 2009.

The Hon. Michael Kirby AC CMG

RMIT UNIVERSITY, MELBOURNE SCHOOL OF ACCOUNTING AND LAW SYMPOSIUM ON STATUTORY INTERPRETATION CHAPTER HOUSE, ST. PAUL’S CATHEDRAL 13 AUGUST 2009

STATUTORY INTERPRETATION: THE MEANING OF MEANING
The Hon. Michael Kirby AC CMG THE MAIN TASK OF MODERN LAWYERS Although we still describe ours as a common law system (to distinguish it from the countries of the civil law tradition), the label is now looking somewhat dubious.

The distinctive feature of contemporary Australian law derives from the overwhelming importance of the laws made by or under parliament. I refer to statutes, regulations, by-laws, executive instruments, rules of court and all the other ways in which the written law now manifests itself. In my youth, the statutory law of the State of New South Wales was collected in twelve manageable volumes, supplemented by a threevolume index1. These books included many important statutes

commencing in the colonial period, some of which, like the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), still apply today.


Past Justice of the High Court of Australia (1996-2009). President of the Institute of Arbitrators & Mediators Australia 1 R.J. McKay (ed.), The Public Acts of New South Wales 1924-1957, Vols.1-15, Law Book Co. Sydney 1958.

1

The volumes also included notes on important case law and various annotations. The legislation of parliament was expressed more briefly

in those days, leaving more space for judges to expound and apply the principles of the common law as derived from their forebears in England. Even in my early days in the law, some judges regarded statute law as an unpleasant intrusion on the judge-made law. When I...

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