Bachelor of Laws: Legislation

A comprehensive guide to legal research created by the VU Law Library

5 Tips for Legislation Research

1.  Second reading speeches and explanatory memos can be helpful when trying to understand legislation.

2.  Assent and commencement sometimes happen on the same day but they are two different things.

3.  Acts and subordinate legislation are living documents.

4.  Secondary sources such as legal encyclopedias and journal articles can be very useful when researching legislation.

5. Ask the Law Library is you need any assistance.

Types of Legislation

Bills - proposed Acts.  A Bill becomes an Act only after it is passed by Parliament and receives Royal Assent. Always check section 2 of an Act to see when it comes into force.

Principle Acts and Regulations – legislation that stands on its own.  It usually deals with a discrete subject area.

Amending Acts and Regulations – legislation that exists to make changes to other pieces of legislation.  They are not intended to be read on their own.

Numbered or sessional legislation – principle and amending legislation as it was  when created.  Not updated to include any subsequent amendments made.

Reprinted or Consolidated Legislation – principle legislation that has been updated to include amendments.

Legislation may be frequently amended

If the research task requires the use of current legislation then it is vital to use consolidated versions.  These should incorporate all the amendments made.  The notes section at the back of the Act or Regulation provides a useful history of amendments made.

Generally speaking, numbered or sessional legislation should only be used for tasks that require you to see an Act or regulation as it was when it was first created or view amendments in isolation.  In all other circumstances you should use a consolidated version.

Finding out more about legislation

There are two main sources of information available to the researcher seeking more information about a piece of legislation. 

Secondary sources, such as legal journal articles and legal encyclopaedias can provide useful commentary and analysis. 

The other main source are legislative documents.  These documents, created as part of the law making process, can be very useful when trying to interpret and understand a piece of legislation.  These documents include:

Explanatory Memorandum - a clause by clause guide to a Bill.  (Sometimes called explanatory notes).


Second Reading Speech – At the second reading stage the Member of Parliament responsible for the Bill gives a formal speech which outlines the intent of the bill.  The speech, reported in Hansard, can be used assist in the interpretation of the legislation.


Bills Digest – A brief background report on Bills introduced into the Commonwealth Parliament that is prepared by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library.


Parliamentary Committees - These exist at both the federal and state level.  They conduct inquiries and frequently have Bills referred to them.  Their reports are available on government websites and are sometimes linked to from legislation databases and websites.

Introduction

The term legislation refers to Acts of Parliament.  The term delegated legislation refers to Regulations and Rules created pursuant to an Act of Parliament.  Both types of legislation, and associated documents, are published in hard-copy and are available online.

Researching Legislation

As always in legal research, it is important to have a clear idea of what you are looking for.  Begin by thinking about jurisdiction.  Is it federal or state legislation?  Next consider what form the legislation takes.  Is it a Bill, an Act or a Regulation?  Finally, what is the name of the legislation?

If you find that you cannot answer most of these questions, then the best strategy, in order to avoid wasting time, is to begin your research by looking at secondary sources such as textbooks, legal encyclopedias and legal journal articles.  The commentary in secondary sources may help you find answers to these questions and, therefore, a clearer understanding of what it is that you are looking for.

Finding Commonwealth Legislation and Extrinsic Materials

Acts - in force - principal -  compilations

These links are to up-to-date principal Acts that are currently in force.  Principal Acts deal extensively with a particular area of law.  These Acts include all amendments up to the date shown on the first page of the Act. 

You might use these links to:

  • view the current version of an Act.

Federal Register

TimeBase LawOne

 

Hardcopy
Hardcopies of reprints/consolidations are no-longer published.

Acts - as made - by year - all

These links are to Acts as passed.  They include all Acts, both amending and principal Acts, as well as Acts that are no-longer in force.  The principle Acts linked here do not include amendments. 

You might use these links to:

  • view an Act as it was when it was made 
  • view an amending Act

Federal Register

TimeBase LawOne

 

Hardcopy
Hardcopies form 1901 - 2017 are held in the Law Library at KH 16 AUS.
The acts of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia passed in the session of ..

 

Legislative Instruments - in force - principle 

These links are to up-to-date principal legislative instruments that are currently in force.  These legislative instruments include all amendments up to the date shown on the first page of the instrument. 

You might use these links to:

  • view the current version of a legislative instrument.

Federal Register

TimeBase LawOne

 

Hardcopy
Hardcopies of reprints/consolidations of principal legislative instruments/reprints are no-longer published.

Legislative Instruments - as made - by year - all

These links are to legislative instruments as made.  They include all instruments, both amending and principal instruments, as well as instruments that are no-longer in force.  The principle legislative instruments linked here do not include amendments. 

You might use these links to:

  • view an instrument as it was when it was made 
  • view an amending instrument

Federal Register

TimeBase LawOne

 

Bills                                                

These links are to Bills.  They include Bills that are currently before Parliament, as well as Bills that have subsequently been passed by Parliament, received assent, and become Acts. 

You might use these links to:

  • view a Bill that is not yet an Act
  • view a Bill that has subsequently become an Act

Parliament of Australia

TimeBase LawOne - Current Bills

TimeBase LawOne - All Bills

 

Hardcopy
Hardcopies form 1993 - 2016 are held in the Law Library at KH 6 AUS and KH 12.

Explanatory Memoranda

These links are to explanatory memoranda.   Please see the definition in the Encyclopaedic Australian Legal Dictionary for more information about explanatory memoranda and their uses.

You might use these links to:

  • view an explanatory memorandum to gain a better understanding of a Bill or Act

Federal Register  (view the Bill record to view the explanatory memo)

TimeBase LawOne - Current Bills  (view the Bill, then click the Key Info button to view the explanatory memo)

TimeBase LawOne - All Bills  (view the Bill, then click the Key Info button to view the explanatory memo)

Austlii (from 1959-)

 

Hardcopy
Hardcopies form 1993 - 2016 are held in the Law Library at KH 6 AUS and KH 12.

 

Hansard

This link is to hansard.  Hansard is  a transcript of what was said in Parliament, including debates and speeches.  Please see the definition in the Encyclopaedic Australian Legal Dictionary for more information.

You might  use this link to:

  • view parliamentary debates and speeches, beyond second reading speeches.

Parliament of Australia Hansard

Second Reading Speeches

These are direct links to second reading speeches in hansard.  A second readings speech is a speech given in Parliament by a Minister in support of a Bill.  Please see the definition in the Encyclopaedic Australian Legal Dictionary for more information.

You might use this link to:

  • view a second reading speech, without having to search through hansard for it.

Federal Register (view the Bill record to view the second reading speech)

TimeBase LawOne - Current Bills (view the Bill, then click the Key Info button to view the second reading speech)

TimeBase LawOne - All Bills (view the Bill, then click the Key Info button to view the second reading speech)

 

Bills Digests

These links are to Bills digests.  Bills digests are published by the Parliamentary Library.  They cover the background, purpose, structure, Parliamentary committee consideration, and key issues and provisions of Bills.

You might use these links to:

  • view a Bills digest.

Parliament of Australia - Browse or Search 

TimeBase LawOne - Current Bills

(view the Bill, then click the Key Info button, then More Downloads to view the second bills digest)

TimeBase LawOne - All Bills

(view the Bill, then click the Key Info button, then More Downloads to view the second bills digest)

 

Finding Victorian Legislation and Extrinsic Materials

Acts - in force - principal - incorporating amendments

These links are to up-to-date principal Acts that are currently in force.  Principal Acts deal extensively with a particular area of law.  These Acts include all amendments up to the date shown on the first page of the Act. 

You might use these links to:

  • view the current version of an Act.

Victorian Legislation 

TimeBase LawOne

Acts as made - by year - all

These links are to Acts as passed.  They include all Acts, both amending and principal Acts, as well as Acts that are no-longer in force.  The principle Acts linked here do not include amendments. 

You might use these links to:

  • view an Act as it was when it was made 
  • view an amending Act

Victorian Legislation

TimeBase LawOne

Austlii (1851 - 1995)

 

Statutory Rules - in force - principal

These links are to up-to-date principal regulations that are currently in force.  These regulations include all amendments up to the date shown on the first page of the regulation. 

You might use these links to:

  • view the current version of a regulation.

Victorian Legislation

TimeBase LawOne

 

 

Statutory Rules - as made - all

These links are to regulations as made.  They include all regulations, both amending and principal , as well as regulations that are no-longer in force.  The principle regulations linked here do not include amendments. 

You might use these links to:

  • view an regulation as it was when it was made 
  • view an amending regulation

Victorian Legislation

TimeBase LawOne

 

Bills

These links are to Bills.  They include Bills that are currently before Parliament, as well as Bills that have subsequently been passed by Parliament, received assent, and become Acts. 

You might use these links to:

  • view a Bill that is not yet an Act
  • view a Bill that has subsequently become an Act

Victorian Legislation 

TimeBase LawOne

Austlii (1967-)

 

Explanatory Memoranda

These links are to explanatory memoranda.   Please see the definition in the Encyclopaedic Australian Legal Dictionary for more information about explanatory memoranda and their uses.

You might use these links to:

  • view an explanatory memorandum to gain a better understanding of a Bill or Act

Victorian Legislation (The explanatory memo is linked form the Bill record page)

Austlii (1911-)

TimeBase LawOne (view the bill record, click the Key Info button, then select explanatory materials)

 

Hansard

This link is to hansard.  Hansard is  a transcript of what was said in Parliament, including debates and speeches.  Please see the definition in the Encyclopaedic Australian Legal Dictionary for more information.

You might  use this link to:

  • view parliamentary debates and speeches, beyond second reading speeches.

Parliament of Victoria

Second Reading Speeches

These are direct links to second reading speeches in hansard.  A second readings speech is a speech given in Parliament by a Minister in support of a Bill.  Please see the definition in the Encyclopaedic Australian Legal Dictionary for more information.

You might use this link to:

  • view a second reading speech, without having to search through hansard for it.

 

Victorian Legislation ((view the Bill record to view the second reading speech)

TimeBase LawOne ((view the Bill, then click the Key Info button to view the second reading speech)

 

 

Other extrinsic materials

The DPS Parliamentary Library Research Service provides research support to Members of the Victorian Parliament. The Service’s publications are:

  • Research Papers, which provide in-depth coverage and detailed analysis of key topics;
  • Current Issues Briefs, which provide an overview of a subject in legislative, portfolio, or policy areas; and,
  • Research Briefs, which provide analysis and description of current bills.

 

Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee 

The Committee’s major areas of responsibility include: 

  • scrutiny of bills introduced into Parliament
  • scrutiny of regulations 
  • review of redundant, unclear or ambiguous legislation

View Publications

 

TimeBase

TimeBase LawOne provides searchable access to full text legislation from nine Australian jurisdictions, links through to amending and subordinate legislation, Bills, Explanatory Memoranda and Second Reading Speeches and detailed legislative histories. You are able to download the full text of legislation as passed, and set up email alerts covering subject areas of interest or relevant legislation.​

 

Find an Act/Regulation/Bill by Title

1. Select  jurisdiction
2. Select a Document type (eg. Current Acts)
3. Select title using alphabet links
4.  Or select ‘Search Legislation Titles Only' quick search

 

Locating an Act by Year

1. Select jurisdiction
2. Select document type (eg. Current Acts)
3. Select Browse By Year and Number.

 

Find legislation by Subject Area

This function enables retrieval of current acts/regulations, repealed acts/regulations and bills by subjects. 
1. Locate Browse by Subject Area from the Main Menu  
2. Choose a subject area to search from the Subject dropdown menu

 

See TimeBase Quick Guide for more information

This video shows the Quick Find search methods for use on the TimeBase LawOne homepage including narrowing the results through jurisdiction, year and number or through using full text searching and narrowing the results using the provided facets. 

 

This video shows the different search methods in TimeBase LawOne including narrowing the search results through facet use; search construction and results navigation.


 

This video shows many different browsing methods in TimeBase LawOne including narrowing the browse results through facets; comparative subject analysis and results navigation.


 

Government Websites and Austlii

Freely available, these websites provide access to full-text, up to date legislation within a single jurisdiction.  They all have different interfaces.  If the research task involves more than one jurisdiction, it is easier and faster to use LawOne(TimeBase).

Legislation

The details required in order are: Short Title Year (in italics); Jurisdiction abbreviation (in round brackets);  Pinpoint to section(s), regulation(s), rule(s) etc (an abbreviation and number(s)) if applicable.

Example: Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth) s 76.

  FOOTNOTE CITATION EXAMPLE BIBLIOGRAPHY/REFERENCE LIST EXAMPLE

Act/Statute

Video Guide  

Regulation

35 Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) s 1.
36 Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) s 178.
37 National Parks and Wildlife Regulation 2009 (NSW) reg 6.

38 Supreme Court (General Civil Procedure) Rules 2015 (Vic)         r 13.01.

 Crimes Act 1958 (Vic)
 Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth)
 National Parks and Wildlife Regulation 2009 (NSW)

 Supreme Court (General Civil Procedure) Rules 2015 (Vic)

 

Bill

Video Guide

39 Interactive Gambling Bill 2001 (Cth). Interactive Gambling Bill 2001 (Cth)
 

Explanatory    Memorandum

Video Guide

40 Explanatory Memorandum, Corporate Law Reform Bill 1992 (Cth). Explanatory Memorandum, Corporate Law Reform Bill 1992 (Cth)