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Locating Legislation Research Guide

What is an Act?

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.

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.

Locating an Act

Victorian Acts are available on the Victorian Legislation website. Commonwealth Acts are available on the Federal Register of Legislation website.

More information about locating Acts can be found in the Victorian Legislation guide and the Commonwealth Legislation guide.


What is Subordinate Legislation?

The most common types 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.

Subordinate legislation is made under the umbrella of a specific Act. The Act can give authority to a person or a body (such as a government department) to make regulations or rules under the sections of that Act.

Locating Subordinate Legislation

Information about locating Subordinate Legislation can be found in the Victorian Legislation guide and the Commonwealth Legislation guide.


What are Bills?

The purpose of a Bill 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-General (Commonwealth) or Governor (State) gives it Royal Assent, making it law.

Locating Bills


What are 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, when it is initially 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.

Explanatory Memoranda, Second Reading Speeches, and Parliamentary and government reports are sometimes referred to as extrinsic material.

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.

In the Commonwealth, EMs are usually entitled Explanatory Memoranda. Explanatory memoranda became standard practice in 1982. Some earlier Bills did come with EMs but this was not usual practice.

Locating Explanatory Memoranda

Information about locating EMs can be found in the Victorian Legislation guide and the Commonwealth Legislation guide.


What are 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.

Locating Parliamentary Debates

Information about locating Parliamentary Debates (particularly Second Reading Speeches) can be found in the Victorian Legislation guide and the Commonwealth Legislation guide.