Interpreting legislation for Engineers

Engineering provides an excellent foundation from which to understand the interpretation of legislation and challenging of government decisions. With legislation invading nearly every aspect of a project, misunderstanding it has become a risk in itself – and you can’t manage what you don’t understand.

As most engineers will have learned some form of programming language at university, this provides a good framework for understanding the process.

A basic outline of creating legislation:

(1) The Parliament produces the legislation.

(2) The Executive (government departments) executes the legislation. Evidence and submissions are the inputs, and decisions are the outputs.

(3) Lawyers review the decisions for errors and unintended results.

(4) Courts correct the decisions and provide patches (in the form of precedents).

(5) The Parliament reviews the performance of the legislation from time to time and produces updates (in the form of amending legislation and regulations).

Legislation, like software, uses definitions and an ‘if this, then do this’ approach. Where legislation neglects to provide for a particular situation, or fails to define key terms, lawyers must draw on their knowledge of past cases and other legislation (such as the Interpretation Act 1987 (NSW)) to read between the lines.

When reviewing the decisions of government departments, lawyers are checking to see whether the decision-maker properly interpreted the legislation, relied on the correct inputs, and took a rational path to the decision. This is an area of law (Administrative Law) that can get particularly technical.

It is not uncommon for decision-makers to misinterpret legislation, or neglect to take important evidence into account. AustraLaw are experienced in keeping government decision-makers accountable, and advising on legislative requirements.

See our services page, or contact us to find out what Australaw can do for you.

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