Commonwealth government publications

About legislation

The Commonwealth Parliament has been making laws since its inception in 1901.

Online access

Most acts dating from 1973 onwards are available online in both their original form and amended versions, via the ComLaw website. Use ComLaw to:

  • access the text of Commonwealth acts and legislative instruments
  • access the text of bills and explanatory memoranda
  • find progress on bills
  • access legislation of non-self-governing territories (e.g. Christmas Island)

Historic legislation

As new, up-to-date compilations are added to ComLaw and the Federal Register of Legislative Instruments, the previous compilations are retained as historical data. The historical data dates back to about 1973. If you want to see an item of legislation as it looked at a particular date back to 1973, the historical data on these websites is the place to look. The historical data includes legislation of the Commonwealth that is no longer in force. If you're looking for pre-1973 legislation, this guide also describes how to find earlier:

Legislative instruments

Types of legislative instruments include:

  • regulations
  • statutory rules
  • ordinances of non-self-governing territories
  • disallowable instruments
  • proclamations

As well as these types of instruments, matters as diverse as standards applying to telecommunications, airworthiness directives or declarations of places as polling places are legislative instruments and can be found on the register.

The Federal Register of Legislative Instruments (FRLI) was established on 1 January 2005 under the Legislative Instruments Act 2003 as the authoritative source for legislative instruments. Now part of the ComLaw website, FLRI is an authoritative source of the text of legislative instruments, i.e. the on-line text is regarded as being of legal force and there is no need to refer to the printed text for legal purposes.


Complete printed sets of all Commonwealth Acts, both in the annual volumes and as reprints, are available in the Library's Redmond Barry Reading Room.


A consolidation occurs when all current legislation and statutory instruments:

  • have any necessary updates or corrections made
  • have any obsolete or unnecessary parts removed
  • are reintroduced to parliament and assented to again.

This makes the newly printed set of the legislation much easier to follow!

The consolidations also include schedules (list of all changes made to the legislation since it was introduced). This makes them very useful when tracing the history of a pre-1973 act.

This is a large understaking, so printed consolidations do not occur often. The latest multi-volume consolidation was published in 1973. Previous consolidations occured in 1950, 1935 and 1911.


Acts are periodically reprinted to incorporate amendments. The reprinted acts are organised by name, and are available on the open access shelves in the Redmond Barry Reading Room. They are reasonable up-to-date, but bear in mind that very recent amendments or acts may be missing from these volumes.

Online access has reduced the need to use the reprints, although they still preferred by some people. As of August 2011 certified photocopies from the printed volumes are required for submission in court - legislation printed from ComLaw is not accepted. This is likely to change.

Annual volumes

As the name suggests, these volumes of acts are organised by year of publication. They include both new acts (when the legislation is new that year), and amended acts (which have been passed that year to update an earlier act). They are also know as 'acts as made'. A full set of annual volumes - from 1901 onwards - is available in the Redmond Barry Reading Room.