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.


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.

Locating 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 turn to 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.


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).


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.



Video Guide  


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)



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)