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Public Law and Statutory Interpretation

Public Law and Statutory Interpretation

Principles and Practice

2nd edition

By Lisa Burton Crawford, Janina Boughey, Melissa Castan and Maria O’Sullivan


This book is also available for purchase from VitalSource as an ebook. See

This book provides an engaging, comprehensive and reader-friendly overview of Australian public law institutions and principles, together with the principles and process of statutory interpretation.

The former inform the fundamental nature of the Australian legal system; the latter is vital knowledge in a legal system in which statute law is so pervasive. This book is the first text to draw these two topics together to clearly explain how the principles of statutory interpretation reflect the constitutional relationship between the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government.

More particularly, the book provides:

  • an overview of the origins and key stages in the development of the Australian legal system;
  • an explanation of the concepts and ideals that form the foundation of Australian public law;
  • an introduction to the institutions, structures and powers of, and relationships between, the three branches of the Australian government; and
  • an explanation of how, in light of key public law principles, legislation is interpreted by Australia’s courts.

The book incorporates in-depth case studies, discussion questions, reflective exercises, lists of further resources and other activities, which provide an opportunity to engage with pressing public law issues in a practical context.

This second edition:

  • includes two new in-depth statutory interpretation case studies to give students the opportunity to practise their skills;
  • uses the response to COVID-19 as a case study through which to explore the scope and limits of executive power;
  • incorporates and explores recent developments in case law, legislation and government action, including discussions of R v A2, Burns v Corbett, Miller (No 2), the Queensland Human Rights Act 2019, the ineligibility of dual citizens to sit in the Commonwealth Parliament, and the Callinan Report on the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

This book will be useful to scholars and practitioners seeking to understand the foundational principles of Australian public law and statutory interpretation.


Table of Cases
Table of Statutes

1.   Foundational Concepts

2.   Relationships and Structures

3.   The Origins and Evolutions of Australian Public Law

4.   Parliaments and Legislative Power

5.   The Executive and Executive Power

6.   The Courts and Judicial Powers

7.   Public Law in Practice: Executive Detention of Asylum Seekers

8.   Public Law in Practice: Human Rights and Public Law

9.   Our Statutory Universe

10. Principles of Statutory Interpretation: Text, Context and Purpose

11.  Principles of Statutory Interpretation: Presumptions and Protecting Rights

12. Principles of Statutory Interpretation in Practice




Reviews of first edition...

I know of no better text to introduce Australian law students to this critical topic … This book should be an essential text in all first year law courses. Further, its sound structure and clear expression repay reading by those of us who received no formal grounding in this vital aspect of public law, but struggle with statutes on a daily basis.

The Hon Justice John Basten, Judge of Appeal, NSW Court of Appeal, Australian Law Journal, 2019, 93

This book marries two well-known areas of law – public law and statutory interpretation. The justification, which is well-founded, is that statutory interpretation is a branch of public law and is regulated by public law principles.
         The authors – all academics at Monash University – discuss various topics over 12 chapters. Australian public law takes up the first eight chapters. The principles discussed include the rule of law, democracy, federalism, separation of powers, responsible government, parliamentary sovereignty and judicial power. The origins and evolution of Australian public law, the structure and processes of parliament, the institutions of the executive and the sources of executive power, and the Australian judicial system and judicial independence are also discussed.
         Statutory interpretation is surveyed over the remaining four chapters. Topics covered include the intention of parliament, “text, context and purpose”, syntactical presumptions, rights protecting presumptions in common law, and interpretative clauses in charters of rights. The authors have not set out to provide a comprehensive analysis of statutory interpretation, but to give an overview of the main topics and a public law perspective. The authors relate the material to the public law topics that were introduced in earlier chapters. Extracts of cases enable the reader to test the commentary against the primary source of law provided.
         The book makes few assumptions of the reader’s knowledge, and is primarily directed to law students. However, it should appeal to practitioners seeking a brief and readable account of public law and statutory interpretation.

Jeffrey Barnes, InPrint, Law Institute Journal Victoria, July 2018


Published 5 May 2021
Publisher The Federation Press
ISBN 9781760022860
Australian RRP $120.00
International Price $110.00
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Law - Constitutional
Law - Administrative
Law - Legal Interpretation
Law - Introduction to Law
Law - Jurisprudence / Legal Theory
Law - Judges & Courts
Law - Human Rights

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