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Law

Use this guide to access databases and websites important for legal research and guidance on locating law reports and unreported judgments, Acts of Parliament and delegated legislation, and secondary legal sources.

Australian legislation databases

Key Australian legislation databases

AustLII 

 Online free-access resource for Australian legal information.

Checkpoint Australian tax and accounting database from Thomson Reuters.
Federal Register of Legislation The Federal Register of Legislation is managed by the Office of Parliamentary Counsel and provides access to the official authorised version of Commonwealth legislation - indicated with an authoritative logo. Content includes Bills, Acts, Regulations, and Legislative Instruments. You can browse legislation 'In force', 'As made', and 'No longer in force'.
Lawlex  Lawlex provides access to the full text of Australian legislation including bills, acts and regulations. All jurisdictions are covered. The Search Legislation function in Lawlex is freely available to everyone. Full access to all content and features requires a subscription.
LawOne  LawOne provides full text access to national legislation in Australia. This includes access to full text legislation across all nine jurisdictions, including amending, subordinate and repealed legislation, Bills, Explanatory Memoranda and Second Reading Speeches along with detailed legislative histories. Point in time access to selected legislation.
LEGENDcom Provided by the Dept. of Immigration and Citizenship, this database includes core portfolio legislation and policy documents relating to citizenship and migration. Access the username and password by clicking on the link.
Tasmanian Legislation  The Tasmanian Legislation site has  "historical notes" so you can track the legislative history of an act.

Statutory interpretation resources

Legislation and extrinsic materials

There are a variety of government documents that are produced in conjunction with statutes. These include bills, explanatory memoranda, second reading speeches and committee reports. These are also known as extrinsic material. 

Commonwealth Legislation

Acts

Federal Register of Legislation - Acts from 1901 - present

LawLex - Acts from 1901 - present

Bills

Federal Register of Legislation - Bills from 1996 - present

Parliament of Australia - bills from 1997 - present

Explanatory Memoranda (EMs)

AustLII - EMs from 1971, however not all are in PDF format

Parliamentary Library Explanatory Memoranda Index - contains an Index of the EMs produced, and links to a number of EMs.

Hansard

Parliament of Australia - guided searches for second reading speeches from 1971 - present

Debates from the House of Representatives - 1901 - present

Debates from the Senate - 1901 - present

Gazettes Federal Register of Legislation - available as individual notices from 2013 - present. Historical gazettes from 1901 - 2012 available as full PDf documents (but not individual notices).

Australian Capital Territory Legislation

Acts

ACT Legislation Register - 1989 - present

Bills

ACT Legislation Register - 1989 - present

Explanatory Memoranda (EMs)

In the ACT, EMs are known as explanatory statements. The are issued as separate documents along with bills. ACT Legislation Register - 2000 - present

Hansard

ACT Legislative Assembly Hansard - 1995 - present

ACT Legislative Assembly: Documents of Previous Assemblies - 1989 - immediately preceding assembly

Gazettes ACT Legislation Register - 1989 - present

New South Wales Legislation

Acts

NSW Legislation - 1824 - present

Bills

Parliament of New South Wales - bills from the current session of Parliament

NSW Legislation - 1900 - present

AustLII - selected bills from 1979

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

Parliament of New South Wales - 1879 - present

Gazettes

NSW Legislation - 2001 - present

Trove Government Gazettes - 1832 - 2001

Northern Territory Legislation

Acts

Northern Territory Government Register of Legislation - 1995 - present

Bills

Northern Territory Legislation - 1995 - present

AustLII - 1998 - present

Northern Territory State Library's Territory Stories - 1975 - 1978

Explanatory Memoranda (EMs)

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

Northern Territory Legislation - 2005 - present. They are made available with each bill

AustLII - 2005 - present

Hansard

Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory - 1990 - present

Territory Stories - 1974 - 1990

AustLII - contains second reading speeches from 1998 - present

Gazettes

Northern Territory Government - 2011 - present

Territory Stories - selected gazettes in PDf format from 1997 - present 

Queensland Legislation

Acts

Queensland Legislation - In force legislation and Acts as passed (1962 - present)

AustLII - 1867 - 1951

Queensland Law hosted by QUT Library - includes Public Acts (1828 - 1936), Local Personal and Private Acts (1828 - 1936) and Commencement Legislation (1793 - 1867) 

Bills

Queensland Legislation - 1992 - present

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.

Queensland Legislation - 1992 - present

Hansard

Queensland Parliament - Record of Proceedings from 1860 - present. Indexes from 1860 are also available.

Gazettes

Queensland Government Publications - 2003 - present

Text Queensland - 1859 - 1900

State Library of Queensland - 2012 - present

South Australian Legislation

Acts

Flinders University of South Australian Legal History Archive - 1837 - 2002

South Australian Legislation - 2003 - present

Bills

South Australian Legislation - 2005 - present

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

South Australian Parliament - 1993 - present. Included in the second reading speech for each bill

Hansard

South Australian Parliament - 1993 - present

Gazettes

South Australian Government Gazette - 1999 -  present

AustLII - 1839 - 1913

Tasmanian Legislation

Acts

Tasmanian Legislation Online - 1997 - present

AustLII - 1826 - current

Bills

Tasmanian Parliament - 2002 - present

Explanatory Memoranda (EMs)

Not 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.

The Tasmanian Parliamentary Papers 1856-1901 are available via the Parliament of Tasmania website (under Library & Resources). The papers may be searched by accessing: https://www.parliament.tas.gov.au/tpl/PPWeb/.

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

Victorian Legislation and Parliamentary Documents - 1996 - present

AustLII - 1851 - 1995

Bills

Victorian Legislation and Parliamentary Documents - current year. They also have an archive of bills from 1996 - present.

AustLII - 1967 - present

Explanatory Memoranda (EMs)

Victorian Legislation and Parliamentary Documents - current year. They also have an archive of EMs from 2001 - 1 year embargo

AustLII - selected coverage from 1911 - present

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

Victorian Government Gazette - 1998 - present

AustLII - 1843 - 1999

State Library of Victoria - 1844 - 1997

Western Australian Legislation

Acts

Western Australian Legislation- 1832 - present

Bills

Parliament of Western Australia - 1997 - present

Explanatory Memoranda (EMs)

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

Parliament of Western Australia - The selected EMs produced prior to 2000

Parliament of Western Australia - 2000 - present. They are produced with each bill

AustLII - 1999 - present

Hansard

Parliament of Western Australia - 1996 - present

Hansard Archive - 1870 - 1995

Gazettes Western Australian Legislation - 1836 - present

 

Annotation Services

Law reform databases

Law Reform Resources

Commonwealth  

The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) website has information about ALRC inquiries and publications such as final reports and consultation papers. 

The Australasian Law Reform Library on AustLII also has a collection of ALRC publications and materials. 

Australian Capital Territory

The ACT Law Reform Advisory Council was established in 2009 as a collaboration between the ACT Government and the ANU College of Law. Reports of the current council are available on the Advisory Council website.

Reports of previous bodies are available on AustLII:

New South Wales

The New South Wales Law Reform Commission website contains details of current projects and completed projects from Report 1 (1966) onwards.

The publications page includes reports, consultation papers, question papers, annual reports and other publications. 

Northern Territory

The Northern Territory Law Reform Committee is a non-statutory committee established to advise the Attorney-General on the reform of law in the Northern Territory.

The Reports page contains the full text reports from 1999 to current. 

Queensland

The Queensland Law Reform Commission is an independent statutory body established under the Law Reform Commission Act 1968. It makes recommendations on areas of law in need of reform, and submits reports to the Attorney-General which are required to be tabled in Parliament.

The website provides access to current reviews, recently completed reviews and historical reviews from 1991 onwards. Working papers and annual reports are also available.

South Australia

The South Australian Law Reform Institute was established in December 2010, by an agreement between the Attorney- General of South Australia, the University of Adelaide and the Law Society of South Australia. Past and current projects, reports, papers and annual reports are available on the website.

Prior to the current Institute, the Law Reform Committee of South Australia operated from 1968 to 1987. The reports from this committee are available here.

Tasmania The Tasmanian Law Reform Institute was established in 2001 by agreement between the State Government, the University of Tasmania and the Law Society. The website contains reports and issues papers for completed and ongoing projects and annual reports.
Victoria

The Victorian Law Reform Commission's Publications page contains complete sets of full text reports from Report 1 (2002)+, details of ongoing projects and Annual Reports. 

Reports of the Victorian Law Reform Commission's predecessor, the Law Reform Commission of Victoria, are available on AustLII from Report 1 (1985) to Report 50 (1992). 

Western Australia The Law Reform Commission of Western Australia website includes all Reports and Papers from Project 1 (1970), discussion papers for current projects, and annual reports (from 1998/1999).

Types of Legislative Documents*

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. Note that Tasmanian legislation has Bills Clause Notes rather than Explanatory Memoranda. 

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.

For information on legislation research please see our Legal Skills : Research Guide