Legislation

The following provides basic information to assist in understanding Victorian Legislation. 

Type More information

Acts

  • An Act is a law made by Parliament. 
  • An Act is created when a Bill has passed all three readings in each house and has received royal assent.
  • Acts are commonly referred to as statutes, legislation or law.
  • Where to Locate:
    • Acts passed from 1996-2015 are in the Victorian Statute Book, and from 1851-1995, on AustLII. These are the original versions of principal and amending Acts as they were passed and do not contain details of updates.
    • All Acts and Statutory Rules that are currently in operation in Victoria are in Victorian Law Today. These are the updated versions incorporating amendments.
  • A list of Acts recently assented is available on our Victorian Acts page.
  • A list of Acts that have recently come into force is available on our Victorian Act Commencements page.

Subordinate Legislation

  • The most common type of subordinate legislation are regulations and statutory rules.
  • Subordinate legislation is also referred to as delegated legislation, subsidiary legislation, statutory rules, regulations and legislative instruments.
  • The Act governing subordinate legislation is the Subordinate Legislation Act 1994 (PDF, 708KB). It is made pursuant to an empowering Act. A person or body may be given the authority to make statutory rules by an empowering Act. 
Bills
  • The purpose of all Bills is to introduce new legislation to either amend an existing Act or to create a completely new Act.
  • Bills must be introduced into Parliament for consideration and debate.
  • A Bill is usually introduced into the Legislative Assembly first.
  • Members debate the Bill and vote whether to pass it. Legislative Council members then debate the Bill.
  • Bills move through multiple stages in each House, but most debate is during the second reading stage.
  • When both Houses pass a Bill, the Governor gives it Royal Assent, making it law.
  • Where to Locate:
  • A list of recent Bills is available on our Victorian Bills page. 

Explanatory Memoranda

  • Most Bills are accompanied by an explanatory statement, often referred to as an Explanatory Memorandum (EM).
  • Their purpose is to explain the Bill, clause by clause, initially when it is debated in parliament. Subsequently they are useful for statutory interpretation.
  • An EM explains each clause of a Bill in numerical order. It appears at the front of the printed Bill, but is not formally part of the Bill.
  • In Victoria, EMs have been entitled Notes on Clauses, Explanatory Memoranda, or Explanatory Notes. In the early years these titles were used almost interchangeably, but Explanatory Memorandum is the term now used exclusively.
  • No EMs were produced prior to 1967.There were some EMs produced between 1967 and 1971, but very few.
  • EMs have been issued for most (but not all) Victorian Legislative Council Bills since about 1983, and for Legislative Assembly Bills since about 1971.  
  • Where to Locate:

Parliamentary debates (Hansard)

  • This is the record of parliamentary debates and is the name given to transcripts of parliamentary proceedings for both the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly. 
  • Hansard is important as it contains the second reading debate (or second reading speech) of a Bill. This 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
    • 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.
  • Where to locate Hansard (Parliament of Victoria).