1857 - 2002
Topic searches are performed to identify relevant legislation in an unfamiliar area of law. Excellent sources for this including commentary, legal encyclopaedias, journal articles and texts.
If you don't know the title of an Act or need to find legislation on a topic, use the resources below.
If you know the title of your Act use the resources below to find a current full-text copy.
Legislation history can be located using the Historical Notes or Endnotes found on the last pages of an Act, or through the historical versions links in online versions of acts. Use the legislation databases above.
Statutes Annotations are research tools which enable you to trace the history of an Act, including:
Point-in-time research is performed to see how a section of an act looked at a particular time in the past. Legal professionals use point-in-time research methods to determine how the law looked at the time an event or transaction occurred, eg. in contract law, work health and safety law,etc.
You can use the Historical Notes at the end of an Act to uncover how a provision has been amended over time, and which acts made those changes.
Point-in-time research is quite methodical. Follow these steps, which may need repeating, until you have the answers you need:
Tip: If the section you are looking for has not been amended over time it will not be listed in the History of Amendments.
LawOne (Timebase) legislation database has a range of point-in-time services including: Income tax, Corporations law, Banking and Finance, Criminal Service, Competition and Consumer Service, Customs Act, Employment, Energy and Resources, Excise Act, GST, Intellectual Property, Migration, Student Assistance Act 1973, Social Security Service.
To access these use
Material related to, but not part of, the legislation is known as extrinsic material and can assist in interpretation. Extrinsic material includes:
Contact a Librarian if you need help locating these materials.
All bills are available through the government legislation site and parliamentary website for the jurisdiction. Historical bills can be found in Austlii.
How does it work?
The progress of a bill through the Parliament is recorded in an official publication known as Hansard (Parliamentary Debates). The bill must pass through stages known as First, Second and Third Readings, in both the Upper and Lower Houses and the Senate (Commonwealth) before it becomes law.
This stage introduces the name of the bill to the House.
At the beginning of the Second Reading stage, the Minister responsible for the bill states:
I move that the Bill now be read a second time...
and proceeds to give the Second Reading Speech. The speech outlines the policy behind the proposed legislation, its general principles, and purpose. Following the speech, a debate will take place, discussing the principles proposed by the Minister who made the speech.
If a bill cannot pass the second reading stage it is sent to a Committee that will consider the implications of the bill and report back to the House at a later date. Debate will then continue.
When a bill passes through its Third Reading stage, this indicates that the bill has been voted on and approved by Parliament. This is the final stage in the passage of a bill through a House of Parliament. It has now received Assent, but needs to be 'commenced' before it comes into effect.
Consider these points if you can't find a bill:
In the Basic Search box type "native title bill 1993" "second reading" > Check that the 'Order by' option is set to Date (Oldest first) & run search > You can use the filter options on the left-hand side to view the House and Senate debate separately.
Tip: The debate may run over a number of days, weeks, or even months. Each section of the Hansard will be dated so that you can read chronologically.
You can also access Commonwealth Hansard from:
Select Advanced Search > select Bills > in the Bill Title box type Sydney and commission > from the results list select the Greater Sydney Commission Bill 2015 > download the Explanatory Notes, Digest and Second Reading Speeches.
Note: Second Reading Speeches are available online from Bill homepages from 1997 onwards.
You can also access NSW Hansard from:
A Second reading speech is an integral part of the debate of a bill (proposed legislation), see the Bill tab for more details.
The bill will be tabled and then introduced to the House by a Minister. The minister's speech outlines the policy behind the proposed legislation, its general principles and purpose. Other ministers will then debate the bill. This stage is passed when the House agrees that the bill can go head and it goes to a Third Reading.
Before you can find a second reading speech you need to find out the date on which it took place. There are a number of ways to do this which include using the Federal Statues Annotations (Lexis Advance Pacific), or the state or territory legislation websites, or the Acts as Made in hard copy located in the Library.
Worked example - Federal Statutes Annotations
Database: Federal Statutes Annotations
Statutes Annotations are research tools that contain a range of information about legislation, which can include the date of the Second Reading Speech.
At the Table of Contents page expand the Annotations section, then use the alphabetical listing to browse to I > IN > select Income Tax Assessment Act 1997.
Underneath the title of the Act the information in square brackets provides the following information:
[Assent 17 Apr 1997 opn on 1 Jul 1997. Second reading speeches: House of Reps 19 Jun 1996; Senate 31 Oct 1996]
Worked example - Commonwealth second reading speech
Database: Federal Register of Legislation
Access the menu Acts > select As Made > browse the alphabetical listing to S > SA > select Safe Work Australia Act 2008
Scroll to the bottom of the Act - you will see the following information:
[Minister’s second reading speech made in—House of Representatives on 13 May 2009; Senate on 13 August 2009]
Database: Parliament of New South Wales
Access the Bills menu All Bills 1997+ > under the 'Acts' heading select C > then scroll down and select Civil Procedure Act 2005
You are now on the Bill's Homepage where you will find details of the progress through both Houses, and Documents and Transcripts such as the Bill, Explanatory Notes and Second Readings.
Second reading speeches made: Legislative Assembly, 6.4.2005; Legislative Council, 24.5.2005
An explanatory memorandum (or EMs, also known as explanatory statement or explanatory note) is attached to the first print of a bill and provides an explanation of the purpose of that bill. Some states, eg. Victoria, print the EM on the front page of the bill. Sometimes you will find there are supplementary EMs produced when there are many changes to a bill.
Follow the process for finding a Bill to locate an explanatory memoranda. One of the best places to find EMs is Austlii - look for the link under the Legislation category of jurisdiction you require.
Law Reform Commissions conduct inquiries into different areas of law with the purpose of improving the legal system and justice mechanisms. Recommendations made by Law Reform Commissions are often implemented by Government, so the documents they produce can be valuable sources of information regarding legislative change.
The AustLII Law Reform Library is a good starting point when searching for Law Reform materials. Access national and state websites below.
Parliamentary Committees are often used to investigate proposed legislation (ie Bills) as well as other policy matters. The reports they produce can provide valuable information about historical legislative change.
For more information about Commonwealth Parliamentary Committees read this guide: