Statutes in the 21st Century

Subject LAWS70404 (2012)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2012.

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 7 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2012:

Semester 1, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period not applicable
Assessment Period End not applicable
Last date to Self-Enrol not applicable
Census Date not applicable
Last date to Withdraw without fail not applicable

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: The total class time is between 24 and 26 hours.
Total Time Commitment: Not available




Recommended Background Knowledge:

Applicants without legal qualifications should note that subjects are offered in the discipline of law at an advanced graduate level. While every effort will be made to meet the needs of students trained in other fields, concessions will not be made in the general level of instruction or assessment. Most subjects assume the knowledge usually acquired in a degree in law (LLB, JD or equivalent). Applicants should note that admission to some subjects in the Melbourne Law Masters will be dependent upon the individual applicant’s educational background and professional experience.

Non Allowed Subjects:


Core Participation Requirements:

The Melbourne Law Masters welcomes applications from students with disabilities. The inherent academic requirements for study in the Melbourne Law Masters are:

  • The ability to attend a minimum of 75% of classes and actively engage in the analysis of complex materials and debate;
  • The ability to read, analyse and comprehend complex written legal materials and complex interdisciplinary materials;
  • The ability to clearly and independently communicate in writing a knowledge and application of legal principles and interdisciplinary materials and critically evaluate these;
  • The ability to clearly and independently communicate orally a knowledge and application of legal principles and interdisciplinary materials and critically evaluate these;
  • The ability to work independently and as a part of a group;
  • The ability to present orally and in writing legal analysis to a professional standard.

Students who feel their disability will inhibit them from meeting these inherent academic requirements are encouraged to contact the Disability Liaison Unit:


For more information, contact the Melbourne Law Masters office.

Email or phone +61 3 8344 6190.

Alternatively, visit our website:

Subject Overview:

In the first half of the 20th century, most civil actions were for causes of action not much affected by statute: trespass, negligence, libel and slander, breach of contract and the various forms of equitable suit. Most criminal prosecutions were for offences created by statute but whose elements were treated as identified largely by judge-made law. There were great codifying Acts; intellectual property Acts; facultative Acts and regulatory statutes. However, judge-made law was of central and dominating importance. The second half of the 20th century saw the statutory cause of action emerge to prominence, the enactment of laws permitting modification of privately made agreements, the creation of new rights and obligations and novel forms of criminal offence. Statute became the central and dominating form of regulation of rights and obligations. The proper construction and application of statutes always has been, but now more than ever is, an essential legal skill. This subject seeks to develop and refine those skills.

Principal topics will include:

  • Construction – a text-based activity but more involving than a dictionary in one hand and the text in the other
  • The importance of the constitutional framework and other basic assumptions
  • The search for meaning and the metaphor of intention
  • The place of Interpretation legislation, including Rights Acts
  • The canons of construction, their use and abuse (canons to the right of them; canons to the left of them; on into the valley of death)
  • Ambiguity and its resolution, including the use of extrinsic materials
  • Inconsistencies, repeals, amendment, consolidation and retrospectivity
  • The legislative misfire
  • Special rules for special areas
  • Rules and regulations – power to make, construction and use in construing the legislation
  • Over-arching theories and descriptions of the construction process.

The objectives of the course include obtaining a detailed understanding and working knowledge of:

  • Features of statutes and their process of enactment
  • Interpretation of statutes and the principles governing their interpretation
  • Proper approaches to issues arising in the application of statute


Two practical exercises (15% each)

Take-home examination (70%) (12 pm 15 June to 5 pm 18 June)


7,000–8,000 word research paper (70%) (18 June) on a topic approved by the subject coordinator

Prescribed Texts:

Core subject materials will be provided free of charge to all students. Some subjects require further texts to be purchased. Visit the Melbourne Law Masters website for more information about this subject.

Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Links to further information:

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