|STATUTES – ACTS OF PARLIAMENT – INTERPRETATION – GENERAL APPROACHES TO INTERPRETATION – GENERALLY – where the applicant was appointed a District Court judge and retired after having served for seven years and 353 days – where the applicant served more than five years but less than ten years as a judge – where s 3(1) of the Judges (Pensions and Long Leave) Act 1957 (‘the Act’) provides for a pension ‘at a rate equal to six per cent of the judge’s salary for each completed year of service as a judge’ – where the respondent calculated the applicant’s pension on the basis of having served seven complete years as a judge – where the applicant contends his pension should be calculated on the basis of serving seven years and 353 days as a judge – whether s 3 of the Act should be interpreted as requiring a calculation of judicial pensions for the last year of service on a pro rata basis
|Fraser JA with Holmes and White JJA concurring
9. It is unnecessary to discuss the decisions of the Queensland Industrial Court to which the applicant referred. None of those decisions turned upon the construction of s 3(1) or of any provision referring to “each completed” period of service. The applicant’s argument was also not advanced by his reference to different statutes which expressly exclude any pro rata operation. Sub-section 3(1) in any event precludes reference to any period less than a completed year. The differing terms of the analogous statutory provisions in other Australian jurisdictions, to which the State referred, also cannot influence the proper construction of s 3(1).
10. As the applicant submitted, s 14A of the Acts Interpretation Act 1954 requires the interpretation which best achieves the purpose of the Act to be preferred to any other interpretation. The applicant referred to a statement by the Minister for Justice at the time of the presentation of the Bill for the Act that “[t]he general objective of this bill is to safeguard the system of justice by ensuring as far as reasonably practicable the independence of the judiciary” and “to bring the Queensland law more into conformity… with other States by providing for pensions for Queensland judges”. These statements of statutory purpose were expressed at too high a level of generality to supply assistance in resolving the particular issue of construction in this case.
11. The applicant also referred to what he argued were legitimate community expectations that the amount of a retired judge’s pension would reflect the whole period of service and to the unlikelihood that it was intended to exclude the additional 353 days served by the applicant from the calculation of the pension when the applicant was unable to use that time to earn a potentially lucrative private income. The applicant’s submissions speculate about what might have been intended by the legislators or make assumptions about the legislative purpose. Neither approach is legitimate: see Lloyds Underwriters v Cross  HCA 56 at - per French CJ and Hayne J.
12. The applicant invoked the following approaches in Maxwell’s On the Interpretation of Statutes, which were endorsed by French CJ and Bell J in Minister for Immigration and Citizenship v SZJGV: 
“Where the language of a statute, in its ordinary meaning and grammatical construction, leads to a manifest contradiction of the apparent purpose of the enactment, or to some inconvenience or absurdity which can hardly have been intended, a construction may be put upon it which modifies the meaning of the words and even the structure of the sentence. This may be done by departing from the rules of grammar, by giving an unusual meaning to particular words, or by rejecting them altogether, on the ground that the legislature could not possibly have intended what its words signify, and that the modifications made are mere corrections of careless language and really give the true meaning.”
 Cf Mifsud v Veolia Transport Sydney Pty Ltd  FMCA 913 (“…each completed year of service) (not pro rata…”).
 Hansard 28 November 1957, pp 1449-1450.
 (2009) 238 CLR 642 at 651-652 .
13. In support of the contention that the State’s construction produced an absurd result, the applicant referred to s 24 of the District Court of Queensland Act 1967, which provides:
“If at the determination by effluxion of time or other cause of any commission under this Act there shall be any actions or matters, civil or criminal, including any appeal, partly heard or standing for judgment by or before the holder of such commission, the commission shall only for the purpose of deciding such actions or matters (including the completion of the hearing thereof where necessary) and so far as is necessary for that purpose, remain in force until judgment shall have been delivered therein unless the holder of that commission shall be sooner removed.”
14. The applicant did not have any reserved decisions or part heard matters when he retired so that s 24 of the District Court of Queensland Act 1967 did not operate to extend his commission. He argued that if he had required a further fortnight to complete his judicial work he would have had the benefit in the pension calculation of the disputed 353 days. He argued that this was an absurd result of the State’s construction of s 3(1). However the situation catered for by s 24 should be encountered only rarely. Assuming, without deciding, that an extended period of service for the limited purposes described in s 24 of the District Court of Queensland Act 1967 would bear upon the correct calculation of a judge’s pension in some unusual cases, that is an unconvincing ground for departing from the ordinary meaning of s 3(1) of the Judges (Pensions and Long Leave) Act 1957.
15. In Commissioner of Taxation v Consolidated Media Holdings Ltd, French CJ, Hayne, Crennan, Bell and Gageler JJ referred to the observation in Alcan (NT) & Alumina Pty Ltd v Commissioner of Territory Revenue that “the task of statutory construction must begin with a consideration of the text itself” and added:
“So must the task of statutory construction end. The statutory text must be considered in its context. That context includes legislative history and extrinsic materials. Understanding context has utility if, and insofar as, it assists in fixing the meaning of the statutory text. Legislative history and extrinsic materials cannot displace the meaning of the statutory text…”
 Similarly, s 21(2) of the Supreme Court of Queensland Act 1991 provides that “a judge who, before retiring …, starts the hearing of a proceeding remains a judge for the purposes of finishing the proceeding.”
  HCA 55 at .
Brisbane Barrister – David Cormack