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Legislation Research: Legislation

Legislation Databases

Legify - A free tool that locates and links to the authoritative version of Australian legislation and delegated legislation.

Western Australian Legislation - Western Australian Legislation Database, includes links to Bills and other parliamentary documents.

Federal Register of Legislation - Commonwealth Legislation Database, includes legislative material from the non self-governing territories and Bills and other parliamentary documents including Government Gazettes.

Commonwealth Bills and Legislation Information - Parliament of Australia website, offers searching, browsing, information on proposed legislation and alert services.

LawNow Legislation - Database of current national legislation for all Australian Federal, State and Territory Jurisdictions. Includes related materials and links to judicial consideration (case law) of legislation and/or sections. From Lexis Advance.

Lawlex - Subject index and links to Australian legislative materials, includes links to Bills and Hansard.

Federal Statutes Annotations - From Lexis Advance.

The Australian Constitution

There is no more important piece of legislation to Australia's legal system than the Constitution.

The text of the Australian Constitution is available online at the Parliament of Australia Website.

The Museum of Australian Democracy hosts Documenting a Democracy and includes a number of important historical documents - including a scan of the original Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 (UK).

Papers from the Constitutional Convention are available on the Parliament of Australia website.

How To Source...

What is Legislation?

Legislation, Statutes, Acts, and Acts of Parliament are interchangeable words (see R v Bakewell (1847) 7 E & B 848 at 851)  used to describe the laws made or enacted by the legislature (the Parliament). Legislation and case law combine to create the primary sources of the law.

There are two broad forms of legislation in Australia:

  • Acts - made by Parliament;
  • Delegated or subordinate legislation - made by office holders or bodies to whom Parliament has delegated power.

Another category of material that is relevant to legal research in this area is extrinsic materials, such as Hansard and explanatory memoranda.

The Encyclopaedic Australian Legal Dictionary (available through Lexis Advance) provides a number of relevant definitions that should help expand your understanding of legislation and delegated legislation:




  1. A law or body of laws formally made or enacted. The term is often confined to those laws promulgated by a legislature (known as statute law or Acts of Parliament), but in its broadest sense, it also encompasses law made by other bodies under the authority of Parliament (delegated legislation).
  2. The process of making or enacting law.
    Also known as ‘law-making‘ or ‘statute-making‘.

See also Act of Parliament; Bill; common law; delegated legislation; enactment; legislative process; promulgation; statute; statute law.


Delegated Legislation


Legislation made by a person or body other than parliament, under authority granted to that person or body by an Act of Parliament. Individually, delegated legislation has a variety of names, including `regulations‘, `by-laws‘, `rules‘, `ordinances‘, and `orders-in-council‘. Collectively, they are variously termed `subordinate legislation‘, `statutory rules‘, `legislative instruments‘, `statutory instruments‘, and `subsidiary legislation‘. The general rules of statutory interpretation apply to delegated legislation: Whittaker v Comcare (1998) 86 FCR 532 ; 28 AAR 55 . Delegated legislation may also be of value in interpreting the parent legislation: Ward v Cmr of Police (1997) 151 ALR 604 ; 80 IR 1 . Delegated legislation has the force of the relevant empowering statute, but it must be within the legislative power of the delegator, and the delegation itself must not be so wide as to be uncertain or amount to an abdication of legislative power: Victorian Stevedoring & General Contracting Co Pty Ltd v Dignan ( (1931) 46 CLR 73 at 101, 120 ; [1931] HCA 34 .

See also Act of Parliament; by-law; delegatus non potest delegare; order-in-council; ordinance; regulatory impact statement; rule; separation of powers; statutory interpretation; sunset clause.


Legislative Process

Constitutional law

The process by which laws are created and promulgated by the Commonwealth Parliament and respective State parliaments. Usually, a Bill is introduced into one of the houses of parliament, is passed by that house and agreed to in identical form by the other house, and receives the assent of the Crown, becoming an Act of Parliament.

See also Bill; legislation.


Extrinsic Material


Material that does not form part of an Act but that may assist in the interpretation of that Act. Such material includes explanatory memoranda, reports of law reform commissions and parliamentary committees, and second reading speeches.

See also Act of Parliament; golden rule; literal rule; statutory interpretation.


Competencies for Legislation Research

You should have an understanding of:

  • The relationship between legislation and delegated legislation
  • How to locate legislation and delegated legislation by title
  • How to locate legislation and delegated legislation by Series Year and Number
  • How to locate legislation and delegated legislation judicially considered
  • How to locate previous versions of legislation
  • How to locate legislation and delegated legislation in force at a certain point in time
  • How to locate commencement information for legislation and delegated legislation
  • How to check for amendments to legislation
  • The difference between numbered, reprinted and compilation versions of legislation and delegated legislation

Glossary of Legislation Terms

Keeping Up To Date with Legislative Changes

Western Australian Legislation

Western Australian Legislation - Information Bulletin

Subscribe using form on left of the screen. Email sent every Friday afternoon containing details of changes to all Western Australian Legislation.

Alerts for individual Acts or Regulations need to be made once you have worked through the A-Z Browse screens. Once you are viewing a section of an Act or regulation click on the "Notify me when this title changes" link and fill in the form.

Commonwealth Legislation

Federal Register of Legislation

My Account (Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department) - you can register to receive email alerts about changes to legislation

Parliament of Australia My Parliament - you can register to track Bills and Ministers to recieve email alerts.

Lawlex - Provides an email alert service where you can choose an area of legislation by subject or individual acts and regulations in your profile and you can be alerted to any changes or new bills.

Contact the Law Librarians to get assistance in setting up a profile