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Legislation databases

1901 onwards

1901 onwards

1901 onwards

1989 onwards

1998

1989

1824 onwards

1998 onwards

1824 onwards

1995 onwards

1998 onwards

2005 onwards

1963 onwards

1998 onwards

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1998 onwards

1857 - 2002

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1997 onwards

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1826 onwards

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1832 onwards

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1832 onwards

Find legislation by...

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.

Worked examples of topic search for legislation using LawOne:

Commonwealth

Q. What federal legislation deals with the cultural heritage of Indigenous Australians?

Select Browse by Subject Area > Indigenous Australians > Cultural Heritage > the results include Principal Acts and Principal Regulations relating to the Acts.

Select Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 > select Current Consolidation to view the full-text or download a PDF of the Act.

Tip: If you need to know more about what is and isn't included in a subject area click the 'i'  [Key Info] button next to a heading.  Likewise this button will give you links to extra materials such as cases considering this legislation.

New South Wales

Q. Does NSW have any legislation regarding the exhibition of animals in zoos?

Select Browse by Subject Area > Animals > Exhibiting Animals > there are 2 current results - a Principal Act and Principal Regulation.

Select Exhibited Animals Protection Act 1986 > select Current Consolidation to view the full-text or download a copy of the Act > Use Find (Ctrl + F) to check for the occurrence of the term zoo in the Act's Table of Provisions.

If you know the title of your Act use the resources below to find a current full-text copy.

Worked examples for finding legislation by title:

Note: These examples only deal with current, Principal Acts. If you need help finding Acts as Passed, repealed legislation or delegated legislation, please contact the library, or use the other tabs in this guide.

Commonwealth:  using Federal Register of Legislation

Q: Find a current copy of the Evidence Act 1995 (Cth)

Select Acts from the left hand menu > In Force > Navigate to Ev > Select the title Evidence Act 1995.

authorised legislation tick logoNote:The Australia icon​ indicates that this is an authorised version of the Act.

View the Act online or select the Download tab to save a PDF or Word version.

Tip: Make sure you check the currency statement at the top of the page and take note of any unincorporated amendments.

New South Wales:  using NSW Legislation 

Q. Find a current copy of the Gaming Machines Act 2001 (NSW)

Select Search from the top left-hand side of the page > make sure the In Force box under Acts is selected > in the Exact Phrase box type gaming machines > Select the title Gaming Machines Act 2001 from the results list.

View the Act online or select the title on the left-hand side of the page to display the entire Act in the right-panel, then select the Print icon to print or save a PDF copy.

Note: You can also select Browse at the top of the page to find the Act alphabetically.

Tip: Make sure you check the currency statement at the top of the page and take note of any unincorporated amendments.

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:

  • its Bill form;
  • the date/s of the Second Reading speeches;
  • when the Act was passed and when it commenced;
  • how the Act has been amended since it was originally passed;
  • whether an Act has been repealed; and 
  • other technical information concerning the legislation.
  • description and cases for any amended sections of the act.

See the worked example and links below to enhance your researching skills.

Worked example for Lexis Advance Pacific's Statutes Annotations:

Q: Find the history of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth)

At the Table of Contents page expand the Annotations section, then use the alphabetical listing to browse to F > FA > select Fair Work Act 2009.

Browse the listings on the left-hand side to find more information about the Act, including:

  • Amending Acts in Reprint
  • Amending Acts after Reprint
  • Amended sections and annotations
  • Regulations, Rules etc
  • Miscellaneous Instruments
  • Articles, Books etc

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:

  1. Locate the consolidated act on the relevant legislation website
  2. Go to the Amendment History under the End Notes at the end of the last schedule.
  3. Look through the list for the provision you are researching - these are listed sequentially.  Here you will see how a section was amended over time eg. ad (added or inserted), am (amended), rep (repealed), rs (repealed and substituted) etc.  Make a note of the relevant act numbers and years. 
  4. Go to the Legislation History (also in the End Notes) and you will see the names of the acts you noted in the previous step and check the date they commence to see if they're relevant to the timeframe you are researching.
  5. Go to the Principal Act and look for the compilation (online) or reprint (hardcopy) with the date you are after.

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

  • LawOne > click on Timebase at the top of the page > see the list under Point-in-Time Services
  • Multisearch > Databases tab > type Timebase > choose the service you want.

Bills and Extrinsic Material

All bills are available through the government legislation site and parliamentary website for the jurisdiction.  Historical bills can be found in Austlii.

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.

First Reading

This stage introduces the name of the long name of the bill to the House.

Second Reading

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.

Third Reading

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.

Can't find the bill you are looking for?

Consider these points if you can't find a bill:

  • Has there been an election since the bill was introduced?  If so, the bill has lapsed and may not have been continued.  To understand the mechanics of how a bill is lapsed read Chapter 10 [at 398] of House of Representatives Practice (6th ed)
  • Was the bill assented the year after it was introduced?  If you are looking for the bill of an Act already passed, check the bills list for the year prior to that on the title of the Act. This situation arises when there is a lot of debate and consideration of a bill prior to approval.  For example some taxation bills span several years and the name or year in the title of the Act is different to that of the bill. 

Worked example - Commonwealth Bills:

ParlInfo Search

Q. Find the Fair Work Bill 2009 (Cth) and any extrinsic material that may help in its interpretation

In the Basic Search box type "fair work bill 2009" > Filter the results by selecting Bills and Legislation > select the result Fair Work Bill 2009 [Bill Homepage]

The Bill Homepage outlines the details and dates of the Bill's passage through Parliament, and also provides links to documents such as:

  • the Bill itself (as introduced and as passed)
  • Explanatory Memorandum (including supplementary EMs)
  • 2nd reading speeches
  • Proposed amendments
  • Bills Digest

You can also access Commonwealth Bills from:

  • LawOne from 1901 onwards (selected)
  • AustLII from 1971 onwards (selected)
  • MultiSearch from 1980 onwards

Worked example - New South Wales Bills:

NSW Legislation

Q. Find the Guardianship Amendment Bill 2007 (NSW) and any extrinsic material that may help in its interpretation

From the blue ribbon select Bills > Browse Bills > Use the 1987-2014 alphabetical list to browse to G > Guardianship Amendment Bill 2007 > Select Bill and Explanatory Note

The Bill Homepage outlines the details and dates of the Bill's passage through Parliament, and also provides links to documents such as:

  • the Bill itself
  • the Bill as passed by both Houses
  • Explanatory Notes

You can also access NSW Bills from:

  • NSW Parliament from 1997 onwards (selected)
  • LawOne from 1915 onwards (selected)
  • AustLII from 1978 onwards
  • MultiSearch from 1979 onwards

Hansard is also known as the Parliamentary Debates.  They are an authorised transcript of the proceedings of the debates held each sitting day in Parliament in each State and Territory.

Hansard includes discussions categorised as Orders of the day, Business, Committees, Bills, Ministerial Arrangements, Questions without notice.  To understand the process of parliamentary debates, read the information sheet below.

You will find the official volumes of Hansard on the Parliamentary website in each jurisdiction.  

Many archive collections have been digitised, but please contact your Research Librarian if you are having trouble finding a particular debate.

Commonwealth

ParlInfo Search

Q. Find the Second Reading debate for the Native Title Bill 1993

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:

  • Australian Parliament from 1901 onwards (see the link below)
  • LawOne from 1901 onwards (see the link below)
  • The Library from 1901-1953 (see the link below)
  • The Library from 1953 onwards for the House of Representatives (see the link below)
  • The Library from 1953 onwards for the Senate (see the link below)

New South Wales

Parliament of New South Wales

Q. What did the NSW Minister say about the Greater Sydney Commission Bill 2015?

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.

Q. What was the date of the House of Representatives Second Reading Speech for the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 (Cth)?

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

Q. What was the date of the second reading speech in the Senate for the Safe Work Australia Act 2008 (Cth)?

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]

 

Worked example - New South Wales second reading speech for Bills 1997+

Database: Parliament of New South Wales

Q. What was the date of the second reading speeches in both houses for the Civil Procedure Act 2005 (NSW)?

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.

Note:

  • Explanatory Note - used for Acts in NSW
  • Explanatory Memorandum - used for Acts of the Commonwealth.  Only made compulsory in 1982 - before this they were published in an ad hoc fashion.  See the link below if you are looking for a Commonwealth EM prior to 1982.
  • Explanatory Statement - used for Regulations (Cth)

Material related to, but not part of, the legislation is known as extrinsic material and can assist in interpretation.  Extrinsic material includes:

  • Explanatory Memoranda (EM) or Explanatory Notes (EN) - located on the legislation website
  • Bills Digests - located on the Parliamentary website
  • Government Gazettes - published on the government legislation website
  • Parliamentary Committee Reports - located on each Parliamentary website
  • Law Reform Commission Reports - archives are held in Austlii
  • Second Reading Speeches - look under Hansard or the bill homepage on the Parliamentary website
  • Journal and newspaper articles - search Multisearch and legal databases
  • Tabled papers (Commonwealth) - this database is particularly useful when searching for older (pre-1990) documents.  

Contact a Librarian if you need help locating these materials. 

Types of legislation

Delegated or subordinate legislation such as regulations, orders or by-laws. These allow other authorities to administer relevant rules and regulations in a particular area. For example:

Macquarie University By-Law 2005 (NSW)

Water Regulations 2008 (NSW)

Also known as numbered or sessional Acts, they are the original Act as passed by Parliament.

Acts commence on Assent or a date to be proclaimed.  

  • Assent means means the day the Governor General gives it a final approval
  • Proclamation is a date set another way, but which is usually found in s2 (Commencement section) of the Act.  Sometimes this is a number of days or months after the Assent date, or it could be dependent on a section in another act commencing.

Consolidated Acts incorporate all the changes made to the principal Act by amendments (see Amending Acts).

Amending Acts make changes to the principal Act. Such an Act should be read together with the principal Act.

Amending Acts have the same commencement process as Principal Acts, but are not immediately consolidated into the principal act.  At this point they are called unincorporated acts.  Once they are incorporated into the act by consolidation, the Amending Act is repealed.

Tip:  If looking for an amending act from the past, always search the repealed legislation as well in case it has been consolidated.

Repealed Acts have been superseded by more recent Acts, or by the process of consolidation (see Consolidated Acts).  They may be of historical interest.

In some instances an Act is repealed because it has finished what it was created for eg. The World Youth Day, or Olympic Games acts.

Reprinted Acts incorporate all the changes that have been made to the original Act by subsequent Amending Acts. They are current up to the date specified on the reprint. This term was commonly used for printed versions of legislation and is rarely used now.

Finding Law Reform Commission Reports

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:

Finding Parliamentary Committee Reports

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.

Commonwealth

For more information about Commonweatlh Parliamentary Committees read this guide:


Q. Find a copy of the Committee report into the Tobacco Plain Packaging Bill 2011 (Cth)


Select Committees > Bills Referred to Committees > This is a list of recent Bills referred to different Parliamentary Committees > Scroll down & select Inquiry into Tobacco Plain Packaging.

Note: Along with the Report, you will often also have access to the scoping information, submissions, government response and other documents.


New South Wales

Information about NSW Parliamentary Committees is available here:


Q. Find a copy of the Committee report into the Election Funding, Expenditure and Disclosures Amendment Bill 2011 (NSW)


Select Committees > Reports > Select 'All (1999+) on the left-hand side > scroll down toInquiry into the provisions of the Election Funding, Expenditure and Disclosures Amendment Bill 2011

Note: Along with the Report, you will often also have access to the scoping information, submissions, government response and other documents.

Australia's Legal System

In Australia, there are two parts to the legal system:

  • Legislation - made by Parliament
  • Common Law (also known as Case Law or Judge-made law):
    • where a judge will interpret the legislation if it is unclear; or
    • if there is no legislation, make a decision based on prior cases (known as precedents).

Check out the material below to broaden your outlook on Australia's legal system.