Composite expressions

Sea Shepherd v FCT [2013] FCAFC 68 

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 [35]) 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 [2015] HCATrans 140.

Lorimer (1911) 12 CLR 504 (at 508), Biga (1991) 21 ATR 1459 (at 1468).

5  XYZ v Commonwealth [2006] HCA 25 (at [19]).

6  Hmelnitsky SC [2015] TIA GST Intensive paper (at 7 [28]).