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Legislation Help

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Table of Contents

Introduction to Legislation

Bills: Proposed laws are known as Bills. Bills have to be passed by a parliament and be assented to before they can become acts of Parliament. An act of a State parliament receives Royal Assent from the State's Governor, while an act of the Commonwealth Parliament receives Royal Assent from the Governor-General. Acts do not necessarily come into operation immediately on assent, although this is common. An Act may specify a particular date for commencement, perhaps retrospective, or the day of a specified event, or a date to be decided later by the government and proclaimed by a notice (known as a proclamation) in a government gazette. If no commencement date is specified in an act, the relevant Interpretation Act in each jurisdiction will generally provide when the act commences to have effect. AustLII carries Bills from all jurisdictions.

Bills Digests: Bills Digests are prepared by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library as guides to assist members of Parliament when they consider a bill. They provide useful information on the purpose and background of Bills. Bills Digests reflect the relevant legislation as introduced and do not canvass subsequent amendments or developments.

Second reading speeches: The most important and interesting stage of a bill is the second reading. At this stage, the Minister responsible for introducing the Bill explains its purpose and the general principles of the Bill are debated. The second reading debate may also cover such things as why the Bill should be supported (or opposed), the necessity for its proposals and alternative means for achieving the same objectives. Second reading speeches are published in the relevant jurisdiction's Hansard. AustLII has started to provide databases of Second Reading Speeches (currently only the Northern Territory).

Explanatory memoranda, explanatory statements, explanatory notes: Most Bills that are introduced into Parliament, and many regulations that are made by Parliament, have an explanatory memorandum/statement/note which explains what the Bill or regulation is about. This explanatory material may also provide detailed notes on the individual provisions of the Bill or regulation which explains how they will operate and may be used by a Court as a source of information about the meaning of a specific provision of an act or regulation if it is unclear. AustLII carries explanatory material databases from the Commonwealth and from all States and Territories except South Australia (none issued, but since October 1977 the second reading speech gives a clause-by-clause explanation of Bill) and Tasmania (rare, not formally published - however, from late 1984 the Government Department responsible for instigating a bill produces a "fact sheet" and "clause notes" which are available on AustLII and serve much the same purpose).

Legislation: Legislation comprises the laws passed by parliament. For example, the Commonwealth Parliament has passed the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) to govern the operation of privacy law in Australia. In addition to acts passed by a parliament, there is subordinate or delegated legislation or regulations which are rules set by a person or body to whom parliament has delegated some of its lawmaking powers. Delegated legislation operates under the authority of its enabling act. For example, the Privacy (Private Sector) Regulations 2001 operate under the authority of section 100 of the Privacy Act 1988 which is the enabling act.

Proclamations and Notices: An act of a parliament can come into operation on a day or days (where different parts of the act come into operation on different days) to be fixed by proclamation. A proclamation is a notice which is generally published in the relevant government gazette proclaiming the date(s) on which the act, or a part of it, comes into operation. Apart from proclamations or notices required for the commencement of an act, the provisions of some acts also provide for proclamations or other notices to deal with certain matters (eg the dates of State-based public holidays). AustLII has started to provide databases of proclamations (currently only South Australia).

Current legislation: AustLII carries "current" legislation databases which include versions of acts and regulations that are currently in force. This comprises officially consolidated versions (where available) as well as numbered versions of legislation where there is no consolidated version available. Please see "consolidated legislation" and "numbered legislation" to understand the difference between these two types of legislation database. It is important to check the last date of a consolidation, which can be found in most acts and regulations by clicking the [Notes] link when viewing the act or regulation. Amendments made after the date that the AustLII database was last updated will not be included in the database.

Consolidated legislation: AustLII carries "consolidations" which are versions of acts and regulations that include amendments made after their original enactment and which are currently in operation. It is important to check the last date of a consolidation, which can be found in most acts and regulations by clicking the [Notes] link when viewing the act or regulation. Amendments made after the date of consolidation will not yet be included. If there have been no amendments to an act or regulation, or if there have been amendments but the relevant Office of Parliamentary Counsel has not yet produced a consolidation, you will not find it in this database; instead, you will find it in the numbered legislation database and you may need to check for any amendment acts or regulations affecting it.

Numbered/Sessional/As made legislation: AustLII also carries the numbered (or "sessional" or "as made") versions of acts and regulations from most States and Territories, and the Commonwealth. These are the versions of acts or regulations as they were originally enacted without any subsequent amendments having been incorporated. You may need to look at the numbered version of an act or regulation if it has never been amended because there will have been no consolidation produced or if the relevant Office of Parliamentary Counsel has not yet produced an official consolidation which incorporates any amendments. Note, however, that you should always first check to see if there is an official consolidated version of the legislation in which you are interested.

Point-in-Time legislation: AustLII has started to provide what is termed "point-in-time" versions of legislation. The AustLII point-in-time system allows a user easily to navigate legislation at any given point in time, to check on the different historical versions of any provision and to make comparisons between them. At present the system is still under development and is limited in functionality and in the range of jurisdictions covered. For more information, see the Point-in-Time Legislation Project page.

Repealed legislation: AustLII has also started to provide databases of "repealed" legislation from some State jurisdictions and the Commonwealth for historical and research purposes. Repealed legislation is legislation which is generally no longer in operation, although some repealed legislation may continue to operate in limited circumstances.

Finding Legislation

To find a piece of legislation where you know its name, choose the relevant database from the database list and then use the alphabetical table of contents to locate it by name.

To search for legislation on a particular topic, you need to identify the relevant jurisdiction(s) - Commonwealth (laws which apply nationally) or State or Territory (laws which apply in a specific State or Territory).

Always check that the legislation found using the search facility is the most recent version. You should prefer legislation from a "consolidated" or "current" database over legislation from a "numbered" database. Consolidated legislation includes amendments made to it since it was originally passed by Parliament. Legislation in "numbered" databases is the original legislation as passed by Parliament and does not include any subsequent amendments.

For help on using the AustLII search facility, please see the Search Help.

Legislation Links - Caution!

Hypertext links to AustLII legislation which you will find in the text of Court and tribunal decisions, journal articles, law reform reports and other documents on AustLII will nearly always link to the current consolidated version of the legislation. Be aware that this will not necessarily be the same version of the legislation that is being discussed in the decision, article, report or other document.

Using Legislation

The acts are split into sections and the regulations are split into their regulations, rules or clauses. To display the table of provisions, click the [Table] link from any individual section or regulation. The table of provisions lists all the individual sections or regulations for that act or regulation. Note that some repealed and/or historical legislation is not split up (NT repealed legislation, Victorian Historical Acts).

The AustLII legislation databases include hypertext links to most relevant material. These generally include the following:

A full list of the legislation databases available from AustLII may be found on the AustLII Databases page.

Each individual bill, explanatory memorandum (statement or notes), second reading speech, section or regulation is preceded by a number of hypertext links in square brackets. The meaning of these is as follows:

Database Last Updated Date

Each legislation database includes a database "last updated" date on the database index page. This is the date that AustLII last updated the database and does not necessarily indicate currency. The database is updated from data obtained from various government agencies and parliaments on a regular basis. AustLII aims to publish updates on a timely basis.

Amendments made after AustLII's most recent update will not be available in the database. To check the date of the most recent update on AustLII of any act or regulation click [Notes] at the top or bottom of any section or regulation. More recent updates may be available from the relevant government agency or parliament and a link to this source is provided on the database index page so that you can check this.

AustLII also provides a tool which will show you, at a glance, the realtime update status of all the legislation databases which it provides, along with the approximate update frequency for each database. See the Update Status for Legislation.

Printing Legislation

To print an individual section, go to the table of provisions for the act or regulation, select the section or regulation and then use your browser's print button to print the section or regulation. If you found the particular section or regulation by using the AustLII search engine, you can eliminate the search term highlighting by clicking [No Context] at the top or bottom of the page. You should now be looking at the legislation without any search term highlighting and can now print it.

To print the entire act or regulation or selected parts, click [Download] at the top or bottom of the page. This will display a new page which contains a menu of the formats in which to download the entire act or regulation as a single file. If the page says that "No downloadable files are available" this means that AustLII does not have a downloadable version of the item.

If available, you should always choose the "RTF" format, since this is a widely used word processor format and is easy to work with. Click on "RTF" (or any other format available). You may be asked where you want to save the file. Choose an appropriate location, then click OK. Some browsers are configured to skip this step, and start your word processor automatically to load the document.

Most RTF files are compressed, and AustLII will send the file in compressed format if your browser supports it. The decompression occurs automatically and the only thing you should notice is that the download is faster. If you experience problems downloading, you should contact feedback.

About the Legislation Markup

Acts and regulations are "marked up" on a massively automated basis. We are constantly improving this process to add functionality. If you have suggestions, these are more than welcome. Please bear in mind that the mark up process is essentially heuristic in nature - that is, it is designed to make the occasional mistake. We can't do much about acontextual links which depend on an understanding of natural (or even legal!) language. If you think that you can suggest a general approach to better take into account the salient features which are inherent in most legislation, please send us feedback.

Reproduction of Legislation

All legislative and related data on the AustLII site is published with the permission of the relevant copyright holder. AustLII cannot give you permission to reproduce the legislation on the AustLII site. To reproduce any legislation beyond what is permitted by the Copyright Act 1968, you should contact the relevant copyright holder to obtain permission. Details to assist you to do this are provided at the bottom of each legislation database index page (eg see the Commonwealth Consolidated Acts database index page).

Additionally, while AustLII is proudly a "free to air" service, nonetheless our detailed markup of legislation is subject to copyright and cannot be copied. The markup is absolutely not in the public domain as far as any sort of reproduction is concerned. Please see AustLII's usage policy for full details.

Copyright permission requests in respect of the AustLII markup and other AustLII-created content should be made through AustLII Feedback.

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