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Legal Research Skills

Using Bills and Explanatory Memoranda

You may need to find out the original intention of an Act during your research. Find this information in the Bill and its associated Explanatory Memorandum (abbreviated to 'EM', sometimes known as Explanatory Notes). These documents are presented to Parliament with a Bill when it is debated.

Tip: When you are searching for material relating to a Bill, make sure you use the word 'Bill' rather than 'Act' in the title of the document. If you still can't locate the document (e.g. a second reading speech), try searching the year prior to the Act, just in case the Bill was introduced and/or debated in the previous year. 

Using Second reading / Explanatory speeches

Before a Bill is debated the responsible Minster delivers a second reading speech outlining the Bill's policy objectives and goals. In QLD, the Minister delivers an explanatory speech just prior to the Bill's first reading. If there is no explanatory note for a Bill, or if you would like more information regarding the intention of an Act you can refer to the second reading speech.

Second reading or explanatory speeches are published in Hansard (the official record of Parliamentary debates), which you can find on the relevant parliamentary website.

Where to find Bills and extrinsic information

Parliament websites

The Commonwealth, and each state and territory Parliament has its own website where you will find Bills and extrinsic material such as explanatory memoranda and second reading speeches.

Note: Many government legislation websites also include Bill & EM information, however most won't include supplementary or revised versions, so it is recommended you use the parliamentary websites.

Subscription databases

Free databases

Finding Commonwealth Bills & extrinsic material

To find Commonwealth Bills, EMs & second reading speeches via the Parliament of Australia website, locate the Bill homepage:

  1. Click Bills 
  2. Type the Bill title in the search box
  3. Click More options, then select a date range - recommend 'None' (if searching for an older or previous Bill)
  4. Tick the Royal Assent and Not passed boxes underneath Previous Bills (if searching for an older or previous Bill)
  5. On the Bill homepage, scroll down to Documents and transcripts to view the Bill, explanatory memoranda, and second reading speeches

APH Bills search options

Finding NSW Bills & extrinsic material

To find NSW Bills, explanatory notes & second reading speeches, locate the Bill homepage:
  1. Click Bills > All bills
  2. Find the relevant Bill alphabetically by title, or click Search
  3. Scroll down to the Documents and Transcripts heading to view the Bill, explanatory note, and second reading speeches.

If the second reading speeches are not displayed on the Bill homepage, search the Hansard:
  1. Click Hansard & House Papers > All by Date 
  2. Click the Search tab
  3. Type the title of the Bill in the Search Hansard box
  4. Use the filters on the left-hand side of the results page to limit to Second Reading
  5. Find the link to the relevant second reading speech speech in the results list.

Advanced Hansard search NSW

Finding Queensland Bills and explanatory notes

To find post-2009 Queensland Bills and explanatory notes:
  1. Click Work of the Assembly Bills and Legislation
  2. Click Bills this Parliament OR Bills Previous Parliaments as required
  3. Browse to Bill title and use the links on the right-hand side to download the Bill, explanatory note, explanatory speech etc.

QLD Parliament Bill documents

For Bills prior to 2009 (the 53rd Parliament), it is simpler to use the Queensland Legislation website:
  1. Find the relevant Act
  2. Click Legislative History
  3. The Bill and related documents are at the bottom of the page

QLD Bills & EMs on the legislation website

Finding Queensland explanatory speeches

To find a post-2011 explanatory speech for a Queensland Bill:
  1. Click Work of the Assembly Bills and Legislation
  2. Click Bills this Parliament OR Bills Previous Parliaments as required
  3. Browse to Bill title and use the links on the right-hand side to download the explanatory speech.

Note: from late 2011 onwards, the detailed explanation of a Bill in QLD Parliament takes place immediately prior to a Bill's first reading and is known as an explanatory speech. From this date, the second read speech takes place just prior the open debate.

To find a pre-2011 second reading speech for a Queensland Bill:
  1. Under Quick Links (at the bottom of the page), click Search record/agenda 
  2. Type the title of the Bill into the with this exact phrase box and select years to search

Searching QLD Hansard