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Australian Law: free online resources

Open Access Legislation

Most Australian jurisdictions provide free access to legislation through government websites. These are the official websites and are where you will find the most up-to-date compilations of legislation.

We recommend using the government websites outlined below to locate authorised versions of legislation. Although other free websites such as AustLII contain legislation, these are not necessarily the most up-to-date compilations of acts. They can however, provide useful historical legislative documents. 

 

Legislation Finding Tools

The below websites can be useful tools for locating a piece of legislation when you are not sure of the proper title, or which jurisdiction it is from. For information about the types of material produced in the legislative process check the Legislative Documents Produced section below.

  • SAI Global LawLex: the free part of this site includes up to date legislation for all Australian jurisdictions which can be searched or browsed.
  • Legify: an index of Australian Commonwealth, state and territory Acts and Regulations. While it does not contain full text legislation, it is useful as a quick tool for searching for accurate titles and currency of Australian legislation.
  • GovPubs: the Australian Government Publications Guide is a guide to selected types of Australian government publications, such as acts, Hansards, explanatory memoranda, gazettes and parliamentary papers, located in Australia's National, State and Territory libraries or available on the Internet. Please note: this database is no longer actively maintained by NSLA libraries. However, updates do occur periodically.

Commonwealth Legislation

 

Acts
Bills
Explanatory Memoranda (EMs)
Hansard
Gazettes

Australian Capital Territory Legislation

 

Acts
Bills
Explanatory Memoranda (EMs)

In the ACT, EMs are known as explanatory statements. The are issued as separate documents along with bills.

Hansard
Gazettes

New South Wales Legislation

 

Acts
Bills
Explanatory Memoranda (EMs)

Called Explanatory Notes in New South Wales. Formerly issued as a note affixed to each bill when it was introduced, they are now separate documents.

Hansard
Gazettes

Northern Territory Legislation

Acts
Bills
Explanatory Memoranda (EMs)

Called Explanatory Statements, they have been produced in the Northern Territory since 2005.

Hansard
Gazettes

Queensland Legislation

Acts
  • Queensland Legislation - 1963 - present
  • AustLII - 1867 - 1951
  • OzCase hosted by QUT Library - includes Public Act (1828 - 1936), Local Personal and Private Acts (1828 - 1936) and Commencement Legislation (1793 - 1867) 
Bills
Explanatory Memoranda (EMs)

Explanatory Notes have been issued for Queensland bills since 1990. Since 1992 they have been published as a separate volume of the Queensland Acts.

Hansard
Gazettes

South Australian Legislation

Acts
Bills

Explanatory Memoranda (EMs)

Explanatory Memoranda are not issued separately for Bills. However, since October 1977, the last part of a minister's second reading speech, giving a clause-by-clause explanation of a Bill, has been subtitled Explanation of Clauses

Hansard
Gazettes

Tasmanian Legislation

Acts
Bills
Explanatory Memoranda (EMs)

‚ÄčNot common in Tasmania, they are often produced as Bills Fact Sheets or Clause Notes.

  • Tasmanian Parliament - Bills Fact Sheets 2009 - present. Bill Clause Notes 2009 - present
  • AustLII - Bills Fact Sheets 2009 - present
Hansard

Before 1979 there were no official reports of the Tasmanian parliamentary debates. The Hobart Mercury reported the parliamentary debates from 1920 - 1979.

Gazettes

The first official Tasmanian gazette/newspaper, the Hobart Town Gazette and Southern Reporter, appeared in Hobart in 1816. It was preceded by two shortlived unofficial publications in 1810-14. After other name changes, it became known as the Tasmanian Government Gazette in 1907.

  • Tasmania Online - current month only
  • Trove - 1825 - 1827 published in the Hobart Town Gazette
  • Trove - 1821 - 1825 published in the Hobart Town Gazette and Van Diemen's Land Advertiser
  • Trove - 1816 - 1821 published in the Hobart Town Gazette and Southern Reporter

Victorian Legislation

Acts
Bills
Explanatory Memoranda (EMs)
Hansard
  • Parliament of Victoria - 1856 - 1999. Each volume of Hansard is available as a PDF file, however the entire collection cannot be searched simultaneously
  • Parliament of Victoria - 1991 - present. Available in a searchable format
Gazettes

Western Australian Legislation

Acts
Bills
Explanatory Memoranda (EMs)

Prior to 2000, Explanatory Memoranda were produced on an ad hoc basis.

Hansard
Gazettes

Legislative Documents Produced

Acts

Acts of Parliament are the laws of Australia. There are a range of types of acts, such as:

  • Principal Act - the major statute covering the law on a particular subject area
  • Amending Act - act that make changes to another act, usually the Principal Act. The changes may affect a few words, replace entire sections, or delete (“repeal” or “revoke”) a complete Act or Regulation. Once the amending Act has done its job (commenced), it is no longer in force (repealed).
  • Consolidated Act - usually the principal Act which has incorporated all of the changes and amendments up to a certain point-in-time – the consolidation date.  An Act may be consolidated several times over its life.
  • Act Compilation - similar to consolidated Act, a compilation is a version of the statute as amended at a particular point-in-time – the compilation date.
  • Authorised or authoritative version of an Act - the best version of the act to use for citing in a piece of research, or to be handed up in court.

Bills

Bills are drafts of law that Parliament proposes to make. If approved by Parliament, the bill becomes an Act.

Hansard

Hansards are often referred to as parliamentary debates. They are the transcripts of parliamentary proceedings, containing second reading speeches and committee debates which are used for the interpretation of acts.

Explanatory Memoranda

A clause-by-clause description of the bill and its purpose which are produced to accompany bills. They are written in plain English and are intended to make the purpose of the bill clear to the reader. Also referred to as EMs, they only came into regular use in the late 1970's. Check the Was there an EM page to see when EMs came into regular use in your jurisdiction of interest.

Second Reading Speeches

The second reading debate is the discussion of the motion moved by the Minister and is usually the most substantial debate that takes place on a bill. Its purpose is to consider the principles of the bill. Debate may cover, reasons why the bill should be supported or opposed, the necessity for its proposals or alternative means of achieving the same objectives. The second reading speech is often used in legal research to understand the motivation or purpose of a bill and is useful as a tool in statutory interpretation. 

Committee Reports

If during the parliamentary debate (second reading speech) of a bill, changes are proposed, the bills is referred to a Parliamentary Committee to make any appropriate changes.

Gazettes

A Gazette is an official government publication which gives information about government matters and makes government announcements including proclamations. The Gazette usually provides Assent and Commencement Information.

Regulations and Statutory Rules

The most common type of subordinate legislation made under the legislative powers of an Act. They are often made out of Parliament, by the government department which has been established by the Principal Act.

You can see more about the legislative process on the Parliamentary Education Office website.