Frequently Asked Questions

Working with OPC

Finding legislation

Other

Working with OPC

What is OPC's drafting role?

OPC drafts Bills for introduction into Parliament and subordinate legislation, including instruments to be made by the Governor-General in Council (ExCo instruments). In general, this is done on instructions from government departments and agencies.

Further information about OPC is available on OPC's services page.

Does OPC draft subordinate legislation?

In addition to Bills, OPC drafts subordinate legislation, including legislative, notifiable and other instruments.

Can OPC give information about how legislation operates?

OPC does not give information about the operation of particular legislation.

For any information, you should contact the department or agency that is responsible for the legislation.

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 for Bills should be sought from the First Parliamentary Counsel.

How do I give written drafting instructions to OPC?

OPC's drafting services: a guide for clients provides information on how to give drafting instructions to OPC.

Why do drafters put comments in the draft in square brackets and italics below provisions?

Example: [DFAT: should subsection (2) refer to the Minister or the Secretary?]

OPC drafters include comments for instructors in drafts using a particular style of note, known as a “drafters note”. The notes always have italicised font and are usually in square brackets. This is partly to make the notes easy for instructors to see in the draft. It is also done for technical reasons (so that macros used by OPC can identify and/or remove drafters notes from drafts, if necessary). Any remaining drafters notes are removed before finalisation. Drafters notes highlight specific comments or questions of the drafters, but instructors should always make sure to examine the entire draft and not only respond to the drafters notes.

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How should an instructor provide comments on a draft?

OPC’s starting position is that instructors should not provide comments on a draft by editing the text of the provisions or by inserting comments in the draft using the Word comment feature. This is to maintain the integrity of the draft, and to ensure that comments from instructors are easy to identify and read. Instructors are advised to discuss with their drafter the most effective way of responding to a draft.

Why has the drafter put words in a draft provision in square brackets and italics?

Example  85D  Validity of [contracts]

A contravention of section [85C] does not affect the validity of [a contract].

If text of a provision is in italics and square brackets, it indicates that the text is tentative or subject to confirmation. There may be a drafters note underneath the provision related to the italicised text, or the drafter may have asked a question elsewhere in the draft the answer to which will impact on the text of the provision, or the instructor may have advised OPC that the policy underlying the text is still being settled. A drafter may also italicise text as a reminder to themselves to review the text later for technical drafting, rather than policy, reasons (e.g. a cross‑reference that the drafter knows is likely to change).

Why is there a symbol before a provision number in the draft I’ve received?

Example  ^50  Exceptions operate independently

Sections ^43, ^44, ^45, ^47, ^48 and ^49 do not limit each other.

OPC has macros that automate the renumbering of provisions in drafts. The macros require either ^ symbols (called carets), ~ symbols (called tildes) or @ symbols (depending on which macro is to be used) to be placed in front of each provision that is to be renumbered (including cross‑references to those provisions). The symbols are removed before the legislation is finalised. Symbols can also be removed for a particular version (e.g. an exposure version).

Why do provision numbers in the draft have letters then numbers (e.g. ^IP1 and ^IP2)?

A single drafting project may be drafted in multiple Word documents to make the drafting process more efficient. The drafting may be split up by topic, or between different drafters. In this situation the drafters may use temporary alphanumeric provision numbering consisting of letters followed by numbers. This numbering is useful if the provisions in each document might have to ‘interweave’ when the provisions are combined, and means that each draft provision can easily be given a unique provision number. It also allows the provisions relating to the particular topic, or drafted by the particular drafter, to be easily identifiable even once they are combined into a single document. If the drafting has been split up by topic, the temporary numbering may reflect the topic (e.g. IP1, IP2 etc. for amendments relating to Information and Privacy). If the drafting has been divided between drafters, the numbering may reflect the initials of the drafter (e.g. India Peters might use IP1, IP2 etc. for all the provisions she drafts). Provisions with this kind of numbering will be renumbered to use standard provision numbering before the legislation is finalised.

Why do provision numbers in the draft have numbers then letters (e.g. ^3YAA and ^3YAB)?

Commonwealth legislation has sequentially numbered provisions. If legislation needs to be amended to insert new provisions where there is no ‘gap’ in the existing numbering, alphanumeric provision numbering is used. For example, 2 new sections inserted between existing sections 3YA and 3YB would be numbered 3YAA and 3YAB. Alphanumeric provision numbers may also temporarily be used in draft legislation if, as drafting progresses, additional provisions are added to the draft and the drafter does not consider it expedient to renumber the whole draft at that point in time. Any unnecessary alphanumeric numbering is ‘smoothed’ out by renumbering the draft before the legislation is finalised.

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The draft provisions are numbered 10, 20, 30, etc. Why are there gaps in the numbering?

A drafter may leave gaps in provision numbers in a draft so that additional provisions can be added to the draft during the drafting process without having to either renumber the draft or use alphanumeric provision numbering. If gaps in the provision numbering are used for this reason, the provisions will be renumbered to use standard provision numbering before the legislation is finalised.

I want to refer to a particular earlier version of a draft. What is the best way to do that?

OPC has strict version control procedures. Each time a draft is emailed to an instructor, a new version is made. Every version is retained on OPC’s system. The version “number” can be found in the footer of the draft. For example, the footer I13LX102.v52.docx 21/9/2015 1:18 PM indicates that the draft is version number 52 of document number I13LX102 and that the version was made on 21 September 2015. An OPC drafter will be able to locate any version of any draft legislation prepared by OPC if you tell the drafter the document and version numbers.

What is the table with questions on page 1 of the draft [Bill/parliamentary amendments] that says “OPC drafter to complete”?

The table is known as a “drafter’s block” and is included in all draft Bills and parliamentary amendments. It is required to be completed by the drafters to ensure that certain constitutional provisions relating to the introduction of Bills and the moving of parliamentary amendments have been considered. It is removed before finalisation.

Why does the front page of the draft instrument have [DRAFT ONLY—NOT FOR SIGNATURE] written on it?

The text is to ensure that a draft (as opposed to the final) of the instrument is not inadvertently signed by the maker or countersigner. The text is removed before the instrument is finalised.

The draft [Bill/instrument] says “Inserts for” at the top of the first page and the title is followed by a colon and then more words. It doesn’t it look like a normal [Bill/instrument]. Why?

Sometimes the drafting of a project is split up into different documents, either by topic or between different drafters. When this happens, the drafting of each ‘bit’ of the project may be done in what OPC calls an “insert document”. The words after the colon describe the contents of the insert document. For example, the title “Dogs Amendment Bill 2016: Little Dogs indicates the insert contains the amendments in the Dogs Amendment Bill 2016 relating to little dogs. The contents of the inserts for a project will be combined before the draft is finalised.

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Finding legislation

How do I find a copy of an Act or a legislative or notifiable instrument?

You can purchase a printed copy of an Act or a legislative or notifiable instrument by using the Print on Demand function in the Federal Register of Legislation.

The Federal Register of Legislation has Acts, legislative instruments and notifiable instruments in the form in which they were enacted or made and compilations showing Acts and instruments as amended and in force from time-to-time. All Register content is available for purchase in printed form.

Links to legislation from States, Territories and New Zealand and overseas legislation are also available from the Federal Register of Legislation.

How do I find out if legislation 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 particular subordinate legislation, you should contact the agency concerned or the department that is responsible for the Act under which the instrument would be made.

The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet website keeps a list of Legislation Proposed for Introduction.

How do I find a copy of a Bill?

You can purchase a printed copy of a Bill using the Print on Demand function in the Federal Register of Legislation.

You can obtain an electronic copy of a Bill that is currently in Parliament from the Federal Register of Legislation or the Bills and Legislation section of the Parliament House website.

The Federal Register of Legislation website also has copies of some Bills that are no longer in Parliament.

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.

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How do I find out when an Act or a legislative or notifiable instrument commenced?

The Federal Register of Legislation provides information about the commencement of Acts, legislative instruments and notifiable instruments.

Alternatively, 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 for Acts are:

  • at Royal Assent (i.e. signing by the Governor-General); or
  • at a specified date; or
  • on a day to be fixed by Proclamation; or
  • immediately before or after the commencement of another provision in that Act or another Act.

If there is no commencement specified (and the Act does not alter the Constitution), the Act will commence 28 days after it receives the Royal Assent (see section 3A of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901).

A legislative instrument will usually have a commencement provision that states when the instrument commences. This is usually section 2. Most legislative instruments commence at a single time.

The most common commencement times are:

  • on the day after registration (i.e. registration on the Federal Register of Legislation); or
  • at a specified date; or
  • on the commencement of a provision of an Act.

If there is no commencement specified, a legislative instrument commences on the day after it is registered.

How do I find out whether an Act or a legislative or notifiable instrument has been amended?

This information can be obtained from the Federal Register of Legislation.

How do I find out if a legislative or notifiable instrument has been made under an Act?

To find out if a legislative or notifiable instrument has been made under an Act, check the "enables" tab on the home page of the Act on the Federal Register of Legislation.

If you think the legislation was registered within the past 2 weeks, you can also check "What's New" on the Federal Register of Legislation.

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How do I find a copy of a Gazette?

Since 1 October 2012, the Commonwealth Government Notices Gazette (including Specials and Periodics) have been published by OPC. The electronic versions of these Gazettes can be found on the Federal Register of Legislation.

Gazettes published by the Attorney-General's Department between 1 July 2002 and 30 September 2012 are also available on the Federal Register of Legislation. They can also be viewed at the National Library or a State Library.

Copies of Gazettes published before 1 July 2002 are not available electronically. To view copies of the printed Gazettes, please contact the National Library or a State Library.

How do I find an Explanatory Memorandum for a Bill or an Explanatory Statement for a legislative instrument?

You can purchase a printed copy of an Explanatory Memorandum for a Bill or an Explanatory Statement for a legislative instrument using the Print on Demand function on the Federal Register of Legislation.

You can obtain an electronic copy of an Explanatory Memorandum for a Bill that is currently in Parliament from the Federal Register of Legislation or the Bills and Legislation section of the Parliament House website.

The Federal Register of Legislation also has copies of Explanatory Memoranda for some Bills that are no longer in Parliament.

The Federal Register of Legislation also has a complete set of Explanatory Memoranda in hard copy. Copies that are not available through the Federal Register of Legislation 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 by contacting the drafter for your Bill. 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. Please advise the drafter of the number of copies required.

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Other questions

What is a legislative instrument?

It is common for an Act to allow a person or body to make a law on matters of detail under that Act by legislative instrument.

The Legislation Act 2003 requires legislative instruments to be registered on the Federal Register of Legislation to be enforceable. Legislative instruments are also required to be tabled in Parliament and 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, and other types of instruments (including rules and orders) may be legislative instruments.

For further information, please see the Legislative Instruments Handbook.

What is a notifiable instrument?

Notifiable instruments are a category of instrument that was recommended by the 2008-09 Review of the Legislative Instruments Act 2003 for instruments that are likely to be of long-term public interest, but that are not of legislative character or required to undergo Parliamentary scrutiny through disallowance or sunsetting.

If your agency is publishing instruments in the Gazette or elsewhere, you may wish to consider getting them registered as a notifiable instrument instead - this will generally satisfy any statutory requirement for publication. Registration is also much cheaper than alternatives such as newspaper ads, and ensures long-term access to your instrument (unlike publication on agency websites, where URLs are often subject to change due to agency name changes and website redevelopment).

There is no requirement to consult before making a notifiable instrument, or to provide an explanatory statement for such an instrument. However, if there is any doubt about whether something is a notifiable instrument or a legislative instrument, you may wish to lodge and treat it as a legislative instrument - otherwise the instrument may not be enforceable.

How do I find out which Minister or department is responsible for an Act or subordinate legislation?

The Administrative Arrangements Order that is made by the Governor-General sets out which Ministers and departments are responsible for particular subject matters and particular Acts and subordinate legislation made under those Acts.

The Administrative Arrangements Order is set out in order of department and is available on the website of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

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What is the process for a Bill to get the 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 recommending that Assent be given. When the certificate is signed by the Attorney-General it is sent to the Governor-General.

The Governor-General 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 a Bill to receive the Royal Assent?

The exact time that it takes for a Bill 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 a Bill 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 a Bill 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 OPC on instructions from the responsible department, and made by the Governor-General in Council. Proclamations are notifiable instruments and are published on the Federal Register of Legislation when they have been made.

For reasons of confidentiality, OPC is not able to advise you whether or not a particular Proclamation is being drafted.

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