Disclaimer

Staff at the National Library of Australia are not able to provide legal advice.

Every effort is made to provide accurate and relevant information, but this does not constitute qualified legal advice.

What is subordinate legislation?

Regulations, rules, by-laws, orders and local government laws or ordinances are commonly known as subordinate legislation and are a type of delegated legislation.

Delegated legislation is law made by a body other than the legislature but with the legislature’s authority, for the purpose of implementing and administering the requirements of primary legislation (also known as Acts or statutes). 

Delegated legislation can be either reported legislation or unreported legislation.

  • Regulations are the most common type of reported legislation.
  • Some ministerial directions which do not appear in official government publications are an example of unreported legislations.

What are regulations?

Regulations are the most common form of subordinate legislation. These are the guidelines that dictate how the provisions of a specific Act are applied. The regulations may be referred to as statutory rules or statutory instruments and are in force under a particular Act.

Sometimes, depending on jurisdiction, regulations are published in the relevant Government Gazette (Government Notices or Special Gazette).

Regulations, as well as other reported delegated legislation (such as rules or by-laws) may also be published on government department websites (e.g. Federal Register of Legislation under ‘Legislative Instruments’).

Regulations must be tabled in one or both Houses of Parliament, and they may be disallowed.

Generally, if you want the statement of law then it is the Act that is required. If it is implementation detail, then the regulation is required.

Online resources

Federal Register of Legislation – Legislative instruments

Commonwealth Regulations and some other instruments as made are available online from 1904. 

Choose Legislative Instruments in force from the homepage to browse by title. Use the menu on the left of the homepage to search for subordinate legislation by different criteria, e.g., no longer in force, As made, etc.

Under entries for specific regulations, you can use the View Series tab to find lists of historic consolidated versions where available.

AustLII

To find subordinate legislation for any Australian jurisdiction, choose 'jurisdiction', and then 'legislation'. Commonwealth consolidated regulations and numbered regulations are available from 1979. 

State and Territories government legislation websites

Subordinate legislation from states and territories is also available online from the relevant government legislation website for each state and territory. See the Other states and territories page in this guide for a list of these.

Print resources

The printed collections at the National Library contain substantial collections of older subordinate legislation in print from all states and territories, though these may not be complete sets. Use the online catalogue to find and retrieve material using your library card.

Examples of subject searches you can try are:

Alternatively, try the GovPubs database to help locate subordinate legislation held by the Library:

  • visit GovPubs.
  • Go to the menu on the homepage and select Browse by publication
  • Choose Subordinate legislation/Regulations and then the relevant jurisdiction.
  • Click on a relevant title and then click on NLA under ‘Locate a copy of this publication’.
  • Cut and paste the ‘Amicus number’ into the Library’s catalogue to find the relevant record and to request the item for use in the reading room.

You can also try contacting the relevant state library with your enquiry.

Tracking a series title

Series titles for legislation often change over time. You can use GovPubs to help track these. For example, Commonwealth regulations were officially known as statutory rules, and were published in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette from 1901 to 1903.

An unofficial edition of regulations was also published by the Law Book Company covering the period 1901 – 1927. From 1904 to 1914, they were published in pamphlet form, but few copies survive. From 1914 onwards, annual sets of volumes have been published.

The statutory rules series ceased from 1 January 2005. It was replaced with the select legislative instruments series which includes regulations and rules of court.

Consolidated editions of regulations as in force were published covering the periods 1901 – 1914, 1901 – 1927 and 1901 – 1956, as well as more regular private editions.

Not sure where to start?