Information for instructors
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A revised version of the Legislative Instruments Handbook has been issued. This document provides information to help Commonwealth rule-makers and agencies manage their legislative instruments efficiently, effectively and in accordance with the relevant law. The current release is version 2.0.
Information for Federal Executive Council (ExCo) instruments
If your instrument is an instrument to be made by the Governor-General in Council, please refer to the Federal Executive Council Handbook published by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet for information on the making process. It is important to consider the timeframes for this process before or soon after starting a drafting project.
Prioritisation system for ExCo legislative instruments
Under the Legal Services Directions 2005 the drafting of legislative instruments made or approved by the Governor-General (ExCo legislative instruments) is tied to OPC. These instruments must therefore be drafted by OPC.
To better target OPC’s drafting services for these instruments to government and departmental needs, OPC has introduced a prioritisation system for ExCo legislative instruments.
In addition to assisting OPC to meet government and departmental needs, a program for ExCo legislative instruments could also provide benefits to departments by ensuring that they have a more structured approach to the drafting of these legislative instruments. This will also support recent initiatives around improving Commonwealth law. It may also assist departments with broader change management processes related to legislative projects.
A trial of the prioritisation system with a number of departments has proved to be of benefit to departments and OPC in organising work and ensuring that the Government’s legislative priorities are met.
The prioritisation process will not affect OPC’s other drafting services such as the drafting of court rules or untied work. Agencies can still engage OPC for untied instruments on a fee-for-service basis.
Before each Parliamentary sittings period, the First Parliamentary Counsel will seek bids from departments for ExCo instruments to be drafted in the sittings period. For this purpose the sitting periods are: Autumn (1 January to 30 April) Winter (1 May to 31 July) Spring (1 August to 31 December). The bids will be due 2 weeks after the deadline for Bills for the sittings period set by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. The template for the bids is available below.
If the priority of an instrument or measure changes or an additional instrument or measure needs to be added to a department’s bid, a variation bid must be provided to OPC. The variation template is available below.
For further information on the prioritisation system, please contact the OPC instrument client adviser for your department.
The formats available for download are: PDF | RTF
Information for Legislative Instruments
Please note that subsection 26(1A) of the Legislative Instruments Act 2003 (the LIA) requires the explanatory statement for a legislative instrument to include, among other things, information in relation to consultation.
If your instrument is a disallowable legislative instrument under section 42 of the LIA, a statement of compatibility prepared under subsection 9(1) of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 must be included in the explanatory statement.
A statement of compatibility must include an assessment of whether the disallowable legislative instrument is compatible with Australia's human rights obligations under the 7 core international human rights treaties.
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights examines disallowable legislative instruments, (as well as Bills) for compatibility with human rights, and reports to both Houses of the Parliament on them.
Further information about statements of compatibility is available through the Attorney-General's Department (AGD) website at www.ag.gov.au. It is recommended that the Legislative Scrutiny Unit, International Law and Human Rights Division within AGD be contacted at an early stage to discuss preparation of the statement of compatibility.
Registration on the Federal Register of Legislative Instruments
If your instrument is a legislative instrument under the LIA, the LIA requires the instrument to be registered, with an explanatory statement, on FRLI as soon as practicable after it is made. Legislative instruments are not enforceable unless and until they have been registered on FRLI. Agencies are responsible for lodging any new legislative instrument promptly for registration on FRLI.
OPC will arrange for the instrument and explanatory statement to be tabled in each House of Parliament after they are registered.
If the explanatory statement is not lodged with OPC before the instrument is delivered for tabling in Parliament, your agency will have to arrange for the explanatory statement to be tabled together with a written statement explaining why it was not provided to OPC in time for tabling with the relevant instrument. This may result in adverse comment from the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances.
Please note that there are fees for registration on FRLI and that additional fees apply for late lodgement, same day or after hours service. Further information on fees and the lodgement process is available on the lodgement facility (https://lodgment.frli.gov.au/) after login or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Compilations of legislative instruments
If your instrument amends a legislative instrument, a compilation of the amended instrument is required to be registered under the LIA as soon as practicable after the amending instrument is registered and has commenced. If an amending instrument is disallowed (in whole or part) and a compilation as registered ceases to represent the state of the law, a new compilation taking account of the disallowance must be registered.
Please note that there is a fee for the registration of compilations on FRLI. Further information on this fee is available on the lodgement facility (https://lodgment.frli.gov.au/) after login or by emailing email@example.com.
OPC provides specialist compilation services under charging arrangements similar to our drafting services. Compilation services for regulations, Proclamations, rules of court and Territory legislation are budget-funded and are carried out at no cost to our clients. For other instruments our specialist services are provided for a fee and we are happy to provide you with information on our services and charges. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information on this service.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the role of OPC?
The role of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel is to draft Bills, Regulations and other instruments for introduction into Parliament. In general, this is done on instructions from Government Departments or agencies.
Further information about OPC is available on the About OPC page and the Working With OPC - A Guide for Clients document on the OPC Documents page of this website.
How can I get advice on drafting matters before I give drafting instructions to OPC?
Client advisers are senior drafters from whom client agencies can obtain quick off-the-cuff advice about drafting matters that arise, for instance, in the course of preparing a Cabinet submission or drafting instructions. Advice on programming issues should be sought from First Parliamentary Counsel rather than the agency's client adviser.
How do I give written drafting instructions to OPC?
A guide to giving written drafting instructions is available on the OPC Documents section of this website.
How do I find out about jobs at OPC?
Vacancies at OPC will be advertised in the Public Service Gazette. Positions are often also advertised in a newspaper.
Notice of vacancies at OPC will also be put on this website.
All public service vacancies are available on the web.
Does OPC draft Regulations or other statutory instruments?
In addition to Bills, OPC now drafts Regulations and other statutory instruments. This is due to a machinery of Government change which took effect on October 1st , 2012.
What is a legislative instrument?
It is common for an Act to allow some other person or body to make a law on matters of detail under that Act. Such a law is called a legislative instrument.
The Legislative Instruments Act 2003 requires legislative instruments to be registered and published on the Federal Register of Legislative Instruments and tabled in Parliament. They are normally disallowable, which means that either House of Parliament may stop their operation by a vote within a set period after they have been tabled. They have a variety of titles. Regulations are legislative instruments, as well as determinations, guidelines, rules and orders.
How do I find out if an Act, Regulation or other instrument has been made under an Act?
To find out if a Regulation or other instrument has been made under an Act, check the home page of the Act on the ComLaw website (where instruments made under the Act are listed).
For Regulations, Rules of Court and some other instruments - check the Select Legislative Instruments Tables on the AustLii website. If you think the legislation was registered within the past 2 weeks, check "What's New" on the ComLaw website.
Can OPC give information about how an Act, Regulation or other instrument operates?
OPC does not give information about the operation of particular legislation.
For any information, you should contact the Department that is responsible for the legislation.
How do I find out which Minister or Department is responsible for an Act, Regulation or other instrument?
The Administrative Arrangements Order that is made by the Governor-General sets out which Departments and Ministers are responsible for particular subject matters and particular Acts, Regulations and other instruments made under those Acts.
The Administrative Arrangements Order is set out in order of Department and is available on the ComLaw website.
How do I find out if a Bill, Regulation or other instrument is being drafted?
For reasons of confidentiality, OPC is not able to advise you whether or not particular legislation or legislation on a particular subject matter is being drafted.
For any information about a particular Bill, you should contact the Department that is responsible for the Bill. For any information about a particular Regulation or instrument, you should contact the Department or agency that is responsible for the Act under which the instrument would have been made.
The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet website keeps a list of Legislation Proposed for Introduction.
How do I find out whether an Act, Regulation or other instrument has been amended?
Acts and Select Legislative Instruments Tables are maintained on the AustLii website. These Tables includes information about certain legislation that has been amended, arranged by year. You will need to check the Tables for each year since the last amendment that you are aware of.
Alternatively, this information can be obtained from tables at the end of the consolidated versions of legislation that are maintained on the ComLaw website. You will need to download the legislation to see the table.
How do I find out what stage a Bill is at in Parliament?
To find out what stage a Bill is at in Parliament, you should check the Bills and Legislation section of the Parliament House website.
How do I find a copy of a Bill?
You can purchase a hard copy of a Bill by e-mail from email@example.com.
You can obtain an electronic copy of a Bill that is currently in Parliament from the Bills and Legislation section of the Parliament House website.
The ComLaw website has copies of Bills that are currently in Parliament and some Bills that are no longer in Parliament.
Copies of Explanatory Memorandums are available from the same locations.
How do I find a copy of an Act?
You can purchase a hard copy of an Act by visiting the Canprint website.
The ComLaw website has Acts in the form originally enacted and consolidated versions of Acts.
Links to Acts from States, Territories and New Zealand and overseas Acts are also available.
How do I find a copy of a Gazette?
From 1 October 2012, the Commonwealth Government Notices Gazette (including Specials and Periodics) will be published by the Office of Parliamentary Counsel. The electronic versions of these Gazettes can be found on the ComLaw website.
Gazettes published by the Attorney-General's Department between 1 July 2002 and 30 September 2012 can still be accessed at the Attorney-General's Department Gazette page until the end of 2012. After this time, these Gazettes will not be available electronically, but can be viewed at the National Library or a State Library. Information on purchasing a copy of a Gazette can be found on the ComLaw Gazette FAQ page.
Copies of Gazettes published before 2002 are not available electronically. To view copies of the printed Gazettes, please contact the National Library or a State Library. More information on Gazettes can be found on the ComLaw Gazette FAQ page.
How do I find an Explanatory Memorandum for a Bill or Act?
You can purchase a hard copy of an Explanatory Memorandum by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can obtain an electronic copy of an Explanatory Memorandum for a Bill that is currently in Parliament from Bills and Legislation section of the Parliament House website.
The ComLaw website has copies of Explanatory Memorandums for Bills that are currently in Parliament and some Bills that are no longer in Parliament.
Copies of Bills are available from the same locations.
The OPC Library has a complete set of Explanatory Memorandums in hard copy. Copies of these can be provided on request (a fee applies).
How do I order further copies of Bills?
If you are a government agency and anticipate a need for further copies of a Bill, OPC will arrange for them to be printed as a “run-on” to the OPC print run. Further copies can be ordered from OPC’s Legislation Officer by sending an email to email@example.com, and the copies will be charged to the requesting agency at the run-on price. These copies must be ordered at least one week before the Bill is to be introduced.
In your email please include the following details:
- the name of the Bill;
- the number of copies required;
- a contact name and phone number.
How do I find out when an Act, Regulation or other instrument commenced?
Tables of Commonwealth Acts are on the ComLaw website. Each table includes information about the commencement of Acts and of parts of Acts.
If you have a copy of the Act, you can find out when it commences by looking at the commencement provision. This is usually section 2.
Sometimes the whole Act commences at the same time. Sometimes different parts commence at different times.
The most common commencement times are:
- at Royal Assent (ie signing by the Governor-General);
- at a specified date;
- on a day to be fixed by Proclamation;
- immediately before or after the commencement of another provision in that Act or another Act.
If there is no commencement specified, the Act will commence 28 days after it receives the Royal Assent (see subsection 5(1A) of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901).
Regulations will have commencement provisions that state when the Regulations, or various provisions of the Regulation will commence. This is usually section 2. Most sets of regulations commence at a single time. Other instruments will not always have commencement provisions.
The most common commencement times are:
- on the day after registration (i.e. registration on the Federal Register of Legislative Instruments);
- at a specified date;
- on the commencement of a provision of an Act;
- immediately before or after the commencement of another provision in that Act or another Act.
If there is no commencement specified, it commences on the day after it is registered.
To find out when particular provisions commenced, you can:
When a provision commences, the date is noted in a note at the end.
What is the process for a Bill to get Royal Assent?
Once a Bill has been passed by the Parliament, copies of the Bill bearing a certificate from the Speaker of the House of Representatives or the President of the Senate are given to the Governor-General by the House of introduction.
OPC prepares a certificate for the Attorney-General's signature. When the certificate is signed by the Attorney-General it is sent to the Governor-General.
The Governor-General then gives the Royal Assent to the Bill by signing 2 copies of the Bill.
In rare cases, the Bill is assented to by the Queen.
How long does it take an Act to receive the Royal Assent?
The exact time that it takes for an Act to receive the Royal Assent after it is passed by Parliament varies. However, it is usually between 7 and 10 working days.
How can I find out when an Act is going to receive the Royal Assent?
The Royal Assent is given by the Governor-General after he or she receives the necessary documentation from the Attorney-General and the Parliament. Therefore, we are not able to tell you exactly when any Act will receive the Royal Assent.
How can I find out when the commencement of an Act is going to be proclaimed?
Proclamations fixing commencement dates for Acts, or sections of Acts, are drafted by the Attorney-General's Department on instructions from the Department responsible, and are published in the Gazette.
OPC does not hold this information before it is published in the Gazette. You will need to contact the Department that is responsible for the Act.
Information on how to find which Department is responsible is set out above.