Working with OPC
- What is OPC's drafting role?
- Does OPC draft subordinate legislation?
- Can OPC give information about how legislation operates?
- How can I get advice on drafting matters before I give drafting instructions to OPC?
- How do I give written drafting instructions to OPC?
- Why do drafters put comments in the draft in square brackets and italics below provisions?
- How long does it take to draft an instrument?
- How long does it take to finalise an instrument?
- How can I find out more about working with OPC?
- How do I find a copy of an Act or a legislative or notifiable instrument?
- How do I find out if legislation is being drafted?
- How do I find a copy of a Bill?
- How do I find out what stage a Bill is at in Parliament?
- How do I find out when an Act or a legislative instrument commenced?
- How do I find out whether an Act or legislative or notifiable instrument has been amended?
- How do I find out if a legislative instrument has been made under an Act?
- How do I find a copy of a Gazette?
- How do I find an Explanatory Memorandum for a Bill or an Explanatory Statement for a legislative instrument?
- How do I order further copies of Bills?
- What is a legislative instrument?
- What is a notifiable instrument?
- How do I find out which Minister or Department is responsible for an Act or subordinate legislation?
- What is the process for a Bill to get the Royal Assent?
- How long does it take a Bill to receive the Royal Assent?
- How can I find out when a Bill is going to receive the Royal Assent?
- How can I find out when the commencement of an Act is going to be proclaimed?
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.
In addition to Bills, OPC drafts subordinate legislation, including legislative, notifiable and other instruments.
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.
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.
OPC's drafting services: a guide for clients provides information on how to give drafting instructions to OPC.
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.
Initial instructions for an instrument should be given to OPC at least 6 weeks before a finalised version of the instrument is required. However, if the instrument or policy is complex, or the instrument is large, it may take significantly longer than 6 weeks to complete a final draft. In this case, instructions should be given as soon as possible. This ensures drafting work can commence when resources become available in accordance with the priority given to the instrument.
In general, the minimum time that should be expected for a settled draft of an instrument to be finalised is 3 working days. This is because of the large volume of other editorial work (both for Bills and instruments) that generally coincides with the times that draft instruments are required to be finalised. If there are a large number of changes required before an instrument can be finalised, obviously, the turnaround time will be greater.
For more information on working with OPC, see OPC’s drafting services: a guide for clients.
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.
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.
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.
To find out what stage a Bill is at in Parliament, you should check the Bills and Legislation section of the Parliament House website.
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.
This information can be obtained from the Federal Register of Legislation.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.