Legislative Research in South Australia
This chapter introduces South Australian legislation. Most of this chapter explains how to access legislation electronically through the Government of South Australia’s South Australian Legislation website or through AustLII. It also explains how to access South Australian Bills and Hansard through the Parliament of South Australia website.
Understanding South Australian legislation
South Australian legislation includes Acts of the Parliament of South Australia and legislative instruments, which are also known as ‘subordinate legislation’ or ‘delegated legislation’.
Acts of Parliament
An ‘Act’ is defined under section 4 of the Legislation Interpretation Act 2021 (SA). An Act includes— (a) an Act of the Parliament of South Australia or an Act or ordinance of some earlier legislative authority in South Australia; or (b) an Act of the Imperial Parliament that has been received into the law of South Australia or applies to South Australia by paramount force.
Legislative instruments are a form of subordinate or delegated legislation. An ‘legislative instrument’ is defined under section 4 of the Legislation Interpretation Act 2021 (SA) and includes regulations, rules, by-laws, proclamations, notices, and orders made by the Governor of South Australia or a Minister under an Act. Legislative instruments are regulated under the Legislative Instruments Act 1978 (SA) (formerly called the Subordinate Legislation Act 1978 (SA)).
Finding South Australian legislation
South Australian legislation can be accessed online or in hard copy.
Hard copy legislation can be accessed from the Government Publications Collection in the State Library of South Australia. The State Library also holds historical Acts and Ordinances of South Australia enacted in the British Parliament prior to 1857. The Murray Law Library at the Law Society of South Australia also a collection of historical Acts and delegated legislation that are not available online. Hard copy legislation can also be ordered online from the Government of South Australia’s Service SA Online Shop or in-person at a Service SA Customer Service Centre.
South Australian Legislation website
The South Australian Legislation website contains authorised versions of legislation. An ‘authorised version’ is an electronic version that is published under the Legislation Revision and Publication Act 2002 (SA). The website also contains subordinate legislation, including regulations and rules, proclamations and notices, and other legislative instruments such as direction and declarations relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On this website, each South Australian Act has its own ‘homepage’ which provides access to the current version of the Act, and any historical versions. Acts can be located manually, by browsing the title of the Act (Acts A-Z) or by number (As made Acts) if this information is known. Otherwise, legislation can be searched by entering keywords, such as the subject-matter of the legislation.
The most common way to locate legislation is browsing by the title of an Act under the ‘Acts A-Z Acts’ section of the website. The lists of A-Z Acts on the website contain the text of all principal Acts in force on 1 January 2003, or subsequently enacted. Unlike legislation as enacted (discussed below), A-Z Acts are subject to a program of consolidation. A-Z Acts include incorporation of any amendments made to legislation after it commenced.
Current and historical versions of legislation can be browsed on the A-Z Acts homepage. By default, the website only displays Acts that are currently in force. However, ceased Acts and Acts of limited application can be made visible by pressing the button labelled ‘Show ceased Acts and Acts of limited application’. From here, an Act can be accessed by clicking on the letter the Act begins with. This will bring up a list of all in-force legislation beginning with that letter. From that list, the relevant Act can be chosen. This will bring up the homepage for that Act.
The homepage for each Act contains current or ‘up to date’ versions of the legislation. It also contains any historical versions of the Act. Acts can be downloaded in PDF or RTF format. The homepage for each Act also provides information and access to any subordinate legislation made under that Act. For example, regulations or rules. Any proclamations or notices made by the Governor of South Australia may also be listed. Under each Act homepage, it is possible to subscribe to receive emails when new versions of that Act are published.
Acts as enacted (numbered Acts)
The South Australian Legislation website also provides access to Acts ‘as made’ or ‘as enacted’ under the ‘As made Acts’ page. Through this section of the website, legislation can be accessed as it was enacted; text of as made legislation does not include any amendments made after it was published or indicate if the legislation has since been repealed.
As made legislation can be browsed by letter or by year made. However, the website only contains Acts as made from 1 January 2003 onwards. For Acts enacted prior to 2003, hard copy legislation will need to be consulted if an authorised version of legislation is required. However, AustLII contains electronic versions of numbered Acts from 1837 onwards.
Legislative instruments can be searched the same way as Acts. On the website there are separate sections for Regulations and Rules and Proclamations and Notices, however these legislative instruments can both be searched ‘A-Z’ or ‘as made’. For example, A-Z Regulations and Rules or As made Regulations and Rules. As with Acts, A-Z regulations, rules, proclamations, and notices are subject to a program of consolidation. ‘As made’ legislative instruments are in the form in which they were initially made. However, the website only has as made legislative instruments from 1 January 2003 onwards.
Other legislative information
The South Australian Legislation website contains further useful information about legislation, including:
- Understanding legislation: This section contains information about the features and structure of South Australian legislation, how to identify authorised versions of legislation, the South Australian Parliamentary process, and how subordinate legislation is made in South Australia.
- Index to South Australian legislation: An annual index of South Australian Legislation, and a cumulative fortnightly update of the index.
- Current titles of legislation: A list of legislation titles (A-Z) currently on the website.
- Historical titles of legislation: A list of historical titles (A-Z) formerly on the website.
- What’s new?: A fortnightly newsletter summarising legislative activity in South Australia.
- Lists and other information: The Ministers Incorporated list details all South Australian Ministers currently incorporated. The SA Acts Committed list details which Acts are committed to each South Australian Minster. Ministers are responsible for the administration of Acts that are committed to them.
- Regulation expiry program: Under Part 3A of the Legislative Instruments Act 1978 (SA), most regulations expire 10 years after 1 September in the year that follows the year in which they were made. This section contains a list of regulations due to expire on 1 September each year.
South Australian legislation can also be accessed through AustLII. Legislation on the AustLII website is not an official or authorised version under the Legislation Revision and Publication Act 2002 (SA). However, a benefit of using AustLII for legislative research is the ability to locate case law or other sources which have cited South Australian legislation. AustLII also provides access to numbered Acts (legislation as enacted) dating back to 1837, whereas the South Australian Legislation website only has as made legislation from 2003 onwards.
AustLII contains access to Current South Australian Acts, Numbered Acts, and Repealed Acts. Within each category, Acts can be browsed by the letter of the Act title, in a similar way to the South Australian Legislation website. The landing page for each category contains a helpful list of the most frequently accessed legislation.
Bills and extrinsic materials
This chapter concludes by explaining how to find Bills and extrinsic materials such as Hansard, which are an important part of legislative research.
A Bill is a proposed Act that has been introduced into the South Australian Parliament. A Bill becomes an Act when it is assented to by the Governor after passing through both Houses of Parliament – the House of Assembly and the Legislative Council.
Bills of the Parliament of South Australia are available on the South Australian Legislation website. Bills can be searched by session of Parliament. Bills of the current session of Parliament display by default. Bills of earlier sessions of Parliament are available in a different section. The South Australian Legislation website contains Bills from 1 January 2005 onwards. Bills can be browsed by title in a similar way to legislation. South Australian Bills can also be accessed through AustLII. Bills can be searched by year introduced, or by letter. Bills on AustLII are available from 2002 onwards
The South Australian Legislative Tracking System on the Parliament of South Australia website provides information on the progress or result of Bills. The tracking system is useful way to follow the progression of a Bill through Parliament.
Hansard is the official report of the debates of the Parliament of South Australia. Hansard is usually published on the Parliament of South Australia website after 4pm on the day following a sitting day. In South Australia, extrinsic materials such as explanatory memoranda (Legislation Interpretation Act 2021 (SA) s 16(2)(f)), Hansard, and second reading speeches (Legislation Interpretation Act 2021 s 16(2)(e)) may be considered in the interpretation of legislation.
Hansard and second reading speeches can be located on the Parliament of South Australia website. Under Hansard search, Hansard can be search by words or phrases. Search results can also be filtered by date range, member, or other information. Hansard search will locate all Hansard, including second reading speeches. However, there is a separate Hansard Second Reading search which provides easier access to second reading speeches. Under this search function, second reading speeches can be browsed by corresponding Bill title, or they can be searched by Parliamentary session or by date range. On some occasions, it may be easier to search for Hansard or second reading speeches through the Hansard Calendar Search, if the relevant sitting date is known.
Using Hansard and second reading speeches in the interpretation of legislation
The Legislation Interpretation Act 2021 (SA) governs the interpretation of South Australian legislation. Extrinsic materials, such as Hansard and second reading speeches, may be used in the interpretation of legislation. For example, s 16 of the Legislation Interpretation Act 2021 (SA) provides that:
(1) In the interpretation of a provision of an Act or a legislative instrument, if any material not forming part of the Act or instrument is capable of assisting in the ascertainment of the meaning of the provision, consideration may be given to that material—
(a) to confirm that the meaning of the provision is the ordinary meaning conveyed by the text of the provision (taking into account its context in the Act or instrument and the purpose or object underlying the Act or instrument and, in the case of a legislative instrument, the purpose or object underlying the Act under which the instrument was made); or
(b) to determine the meaning of the provision—
(i) if the provision is ambiguous or obscure; or
(ii) if the ordinary meaning conveyed by the text of the provision (taking into account its context in the Act or instrument and the purpose or object underlying the Act or instrument and, in the case of a legislative instrument, the purpose or object underlying the Act under which the instrument was made) leads to a result that is manifestly absurd or is unreasonable.