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24 Oct 2013

Recent amendments to the Acts Interpretation Act 1954 (Qld)

by Majella Pollard, Alyce Elder

If you use legislation then you should be familiar with the provisions of the Acts Interpretation Act, including these recent changes.

When you read an Act you need to know how to interpret it.

All jurisdictions in Australia have passed Acts to assist in the interpretation of statutes and to avoid the repetition of common provisions. The common law (developed by the courts) is also relevant to statutory interpretation.

The Treasury and Trade and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2013 (Amendment Act) was recently passed by the Queensland Parliament and commenced on 23 September 2013. It amends various Acts, including the Acts Interpretation Act 1954 (Qld) (AIA) which provides the statutory rules of interpretation for Queensland Acts.

If you use legislation then you should be familiar with the provisions of the AIA, including these recent changes.

What does the Acts Interpretation Act do?

The long title of the AIA is to "assist in the shortening and interpretation of Queensland Acts". The AIA applies to all Queensland Acts, although the application of the AIA may be displaced wholly or partly by contrary intention of another Act.

Drafters of Queensland legislation presume that readers have a detailed knowledge of the AIA and will draft legislation with this in mind.

The AIA provides a number of statutory rules of construction including:

  • a reference in an Act to a law or a provision of a law includes a reference to the statutory instruments made or in force under that law or provision (section 7);
  • no Act is binding on the Crown or shall derogate from any prerogative right of the Crown unless express words are included in the Act for that purpose (section 13). However, see the interpretation of that provision in Re Commissioner of Water Resources & Leighton Contractors [1991] 1 Qd R 549; 

  • a heading to a chapter, part, division or subdivision of an Act is part of the Act, however, a footnote, editor's note or an endnote is not part of an Act (section 14);

  • the interpretation that will best achieve the purpose of the Act is to be preferred to any other interpretation (section 14A); and

  • an example of the operation of a provision included in an Act is not exhaustive and may extend the meaning of the provision (section 14D).

The AIA also provides for the interpretation of the commencement of Acts (Part 5), the amendment and repeal of Acts (Part 6), the functions and powers conferred by Acts (Part 7) including the delegation of statutory powers (Part 7) and terms and references in Acts (Part 8).

Extrinsic material

The examples of "extrinsic material" in section 14B(3) of the AIA have been modified. Whereas previously material that was set out in the document containing the text of the Act as printed by the government printer was extrinsic material, this has been changed to "material set out in an official copy of the Act".

Also, material in the Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly or in any official record of debates in the Legislative Assembly has been refined to "material in an official record of proceedings in the Legislative Assembly".

Commonly used words and expressions

All of the definitions that were contained in section 36 of the AIA have been relocated to a new Schedule 1. If a term is not defined in the Act you are reading then always check the AIA before you refer to a dictionary.

  • "appropriately qualified" which means having qualifications, experience or standing appropriate to perform the function or exercise the power or perform the functions of the office. The words appropriately qualified are often found in provisions of an Act which deal with delegation; and 

  • "official copy" in relation to Queensland legislation means a copy of the legislation printed by or under the authority of the government printer or authorised by the parliamentary counsel and published on the Queensland legislation website.

Forms

A new Part 12A, "Forms", has been inserted into the AIA. The former section 58 of the Statutory Instruments Act 1992 (SIA) has been transferred to a new section 48 of the AIA. Previously forms were provided for in the SIA and compliance with forms was provided for in the AIA. Now, all provisions regarding the content, notification, availability of and compliance with forms is in the AIA.

Amendment to the Statutory Instruments Act 1992

The Amendment Act also amends the SIA. Previously notification of subordinate legislation was done by publication in the Government Gazette. Now section 47 of the SIA requires notification to be done by publication of the legislation and date of publication on the Queensland legislation website. This will make searching future subordinate legislation a breeze.

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Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this communication. Persons listed may not be admitted in all States and Territories.