Composite expressions

EPA v Sydney Water [2023] NSWLEC 119

SW resisted a subpoena for documents because their sole purpose was that of a ‘voluntary environmental audit’ (protected).  The interpretation point was how this composite expression was to be construed. 

Moore J said the ‘task is to construe the language of the statute, not individual words’11.  Composite expressions are not to be deconstructed unless it is necessary to provide meaning to the whole by considering the separate constituent parts.  The judge stressed the danger in relying on acontextual dictionary meanings within composite expressions12iTip – the first task, however, is to determine that your phrase is in fact a composite expression13.

This principle is from Episode 103 of interpretation NOW!


11 Sea Shepherd [2013] FCAFC 68 [34] quoted.

12 XYZ [2006] HCA 25 [19], Campbell [2008] NSWCCA 214 [49].

13 Nature’s Care [2018] FCA 1936 [32-34], BHP Billiton [2019] FCAFC 4 [85].