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Legal skills - Research

This guide is designed to help you locate, evaluate and update relevant legal information.

How do you research legislation?


Legislation research involves searching:

  • current legislation

  • historical versions of legislation

  • subordinate legislation

  • parliamentary materials to assist interpret legislation, such as second reading speeches, Hansard and explanatory memorandum


This section will assist you to find legislation and parliamentary materials.


Understanding the context of law making is essential to legislative research. We have included a video and facts sheets about how laws are made.


(This video was developed by the Legal Information Access Centre (LIAC), State Library of NSW, with funding from the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW.)


How do I find legislation?


The following video was created by Queensland University of Technology Library in 2015 to assist students locate legislation. 


Online versions of legislation are freely accessible via the official Government websites. These are where you will find the most up-to-date versions of the legislation.

Where do I find parliamentary materials?


Statutory interpretation is the process by which courts interpret and apply legislation. Courts look to the intention behind the legislation using legal materials such as Hansard, second reading speeches, explanatory memoranda, clause notes and parliamentary reports. Below are links to parliamentary websites that have legal materials:



Tasmania Parliament of Tasmania 
Commonwealth Parliament of Australia 
Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly for the ACT 
New South Wales Parliament of New South Wales 
Northern Territory Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory 
South Australia Parliament of South Australia 
Queensland Queensland Parliament 
Victoria Parliament of Victoria 
Western Australia Parliament of Western Australia 



House of Commons Parliamentary Papers House of Commons Parliamentary Papers empowers researchers to explore the British perspective on historical and contemporary events through a vast and authoritative archive of official government documents spanning three centuries.

What is a Bill?


Bills are proposed laws which Parliament considers. The Bill must receive the approval of each house before it can become legislation. You may find that the terms legislation, act, statute or law are used interchangably. Most bills are Public Bills and are introduced by the Minister whose agency will be responsible for implementing and administering the legislation.

Any Member of Parliament is entitled to prepare and present a private member's Bill for debate, but because the Government of the day is in control of the proceedings it may be difficult for non-government Bills to receive the same consideration that government Bills receive. Similarly, any Member may propose amendments to any Bill during the Committee stage, but such amendments will usually be accepted by the Government only if the proposal has been agreed to in advance.

The Tasmanian Parliamentary Library has prepared a fact sheet on 'How laws are made' to provide you with additional background information.

How do I find Tasmanian bills online?


You can find Tasmanian bills in print and online.  Below are links to the online resources: 

2002 +

Guide to selected types of Australian Government publications such as Acts, Hansards, Explanatory Memoranda, Gazettes and Parliamentary Papers.

Free internet access to Australasian legal materials. 


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.


What is Hansard?


Hansard is the name given to transcripts of parliamentary proceedings for both the House of Assembly and Legislative Council. Hansard is also commonly referred to as parliamentary debates.

Tasmania's hansard did not officially commence until mid 1979. The University Law Library holds printed Hansard from 1979-1995.  Online Hansard  is available from the Parliament of Tasmania web site from 1992 +.

For further background information, the Parliamentary Library has produced an excellent fact sheet.

Mercury Reprints:

These Reprints appeared from 1920 to 1978 via an agreement between the Parliament and the newspaper. The earlier reprints contained almost verbatim reports, taken down by the journalists, rather than the edited newspaper versions.


What is an explanatory memorandum?


An Explanatory Memorandum explains the purpose and content of a bill clause by clause in numerical order and in plain language. Tasmania does not produce any explanatory memoranda.  Clause notes and fact sheets are available from 1983 (from the Parliamentary Library) and can be accessed electronically  from 2008 + via the Progress of Bills link on the Parliament website. The Bills Fact Sheets are also available on AustLII.

How do I check commencement dates?


The commencement date is the date upon which a particular piece of legislation, also referred to as a statute, comes into force. The commencement date may be:

  • retrospective (in the past)
  • upon receiving Royal Assent from the Governor or Governor-General
  • at a proclaimed date (in the future)
  • in relation to another piece of legislation
  • the default date of 28 days after receiving Royal Assent 

You will also need to be aware that sometimes different sections of an Act can commence at different times.

Commencement dates are published in the Government Gazette and also appear in the Notes sections of Reprinted Acts. Below are links to online versions of Government Gazettes:



Is it authorative?

Online compilations of Commonwealth legislation are authoritative and can be used in legal proceedings, as outlined in the Evidence Amendment Act (Cth). An authoritative online compilation from the Federal Register of Legislation will always be in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format and will display the symbol  .

In Tasmania, the online compilation of an act is not recognised as authoritative. Paper reprints are the official authorised version of Tasmanian legislation, and it is this version which should be taken to court. Up to date paper statutes are held the law library of Tasmania.