Composite expressions must be read as a whole, not pulled apart word-by-word against a dictionary then re-assembled out of context. Gordon J (at ) cautioned against this kind of ‘atomised analysis’ in remarks which were later drawn to attention in her swearing in as a High Court judge3.
The point about composite expressions is not novel4 but it is increasingly emphasised by judges5. Tax laws are full of composite expressions – ‘supply for consideration’ in the GST law, for example6. iTip – dictionaries alone rarely resolve contested interpretation issues, but they are even more a false idol when it comes to composite expressions.
This case is from Episode 5 of interpretationNOW!
3 Ceremonial Swearing in of Gordon J  HCATrans 140.
4 Lorimer (1911) 12 CLR 504 (at 508), Biga (1991) 21 ATR 1459 (at 1468).
5 XYZ v Commonwealth  HCA 25 (at ).
6 Hmelnitsky SC  TIA GST Intensive paper (at 7 ).