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Literal construction of the Constitution



Amalgamated Society of Engineers v Adelaide Steamship Co Ltd (1920) 28 CLR 129 (http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/1920/54.html) (Engineers Case) ushered in a period of literal interpretation of the Constitution.

SirOwen Dixon did not accept a reading of Engineers that precluded doctrine based on an implication from the text or structure of the Constitution. In Melbourne Corporation (1947) 74 CLR 31 at 78 his Honour said:
"The prima-facie rule is that a power to legislate with respect to a given subject enables the Parliament to make laws which, upon that subject, affect the operations of the States and their agencies. That, as I have pointed out more than once, is the effect of the Engineers' Case stripped of embellishment and reduced to the form of a legal proposition.":


Earlier he had written: "We should avoid pedantic and narrow constructions in dealing with an instrument of government and I do not see why we should be fearful about making implications." (The Airways Case (1945) 71 CLR 29, 85

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