Bills and legislation

Understanding a bill

Bills are made public at the second reading stage. You then have the chance to read the bill, and put your views to the minister and members. On this page, you can learn about the major parts of a bill.

Explanatory memorandum

The explanatory memorandum explains each clause in numerical order. It is not formally part of the bill. 

Table of provisions

The table of provisions is like a table of contents. It gives a quick overview of the bill’s contents, and lets you easily locate clauses you may be interested in.

A longer bill can be divided into parts. Each part deals with a different aspect of the bill's subject matter. A part may also be split into divisions and subdivisions.  

The front page

The front page shows the House the bill was introduced in. If the bill is not a government bill, the name of the member introducing it is also shown.

Next, the short title is written. If the bill becomes an Act, the word 'Bill' in the short title will change to 'Act'.

The long title is written below the short title. This is a brief summary of the scope of the bill. If the bill becomes an Act of Parliament, the long title will be moved to an endnote at the back of the Act.  

A preamble is an optional introduction. It gives reasons for the legislation, explains the context and clarifies its scope. When included, you will find it immediately after the long title. 


Bills are divided into clauses, which are numbered and titled. Once a bill becomes an Act of Parliament, clauses are known as sections.

Clauses may be divided into subclauses, which in turn can be divided into subparagraphs. Clauses may also be grouped into chapters, parts, divisions and subdivisions.  

Purpose clause

Clause 1 sets out the bill's purposes. The clause can help you interpret the eventual Act. 

Commencement clause

Clause 2 is usually a commencement clause, outlining when the Act will come into operation. It is common for different sections of an Act to come into operation at different times.

Some provisions come into effect when they are proclaimed by the Governor. The bill may have an automatic commencement date which comes into effect if there is no proclamation. 

Definition clause

If required, clause 3 contains specific definitions needed to understand the bill. These will be listed in alphabetical order and help avoid disputes over meanings. 


Schedules appear after all the clauses. They are most commonly include consequential amendments to existing acts, as well as rules, maps, forms and fee scales. 

Other information about bills

See the Bills and Legislation page for second reading speeches and statements of compatibility.

See Hansard for debates on bills.

The Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee also reports on bills, focusing on rights and freedoms.