Government Publications: Laws (Acts, Bills)

A brief guide to locating federal and state government publication for Australia, and selected other countries.

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What is legislation?

Laws made by Parliament (ie legislation) consist of:

  • Acts (also known as statutes)
  • Subordinate and delegated legislation (also known as regulations, rules, by-laws and orders, legislative instruments)
  • Bills (the form taken before an Act has been passed)

Materials associated with legislation, called extrinsic materials, are extremely useful in the legal research process to help understand, define, or interpret the meaning or intent of the legislation.

These are defined in the Acts Interpretation Acts of the Cth and States, see Acts Interpretation Act 1901 (Cth) s 15AB , Interpretation of Legislation Act 1984 (Vic) s 35 , and include:

  • Reports of Law Reform and Royal Commission inquiries
  • Parliamentary Committee reports
  • Treaties or other international agreements
  • Explanatory memorandum relating to the Bill
  • Second reading speeches
  • Offical records of parliamentary debates, such as the Votes and Proceedings or Journals of the Senate.

Researching Legislation

Online versions of legislation are freely accessible via the official Government websites They are updated regularly but always check the currency of the version you have.

Print copies of legislation for all Australian jurisdictions are held on level 1 of the Law Library but are often not current. 

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