Navigating the New Federal Register of Legislation

The Federal Register of Legislation (FRL) website was recently updated in early 2024. The FRL is the approved, whole-of-government website for Australian Government legislation and related documents. Navigating some legislative documents on the FRL is necessary for all business areas required to access legislation relevant to their core business including Regulatory, Legal, Marketing, Manufacturing and Innovation. 

The FRL contains the full text of laws, as well as details of the life cycle of individual laws and the relationships between them. It contains Explanatory Statements for new laws and amendments to existing law. This Member Alert provides a summary of information that may be of use to members in navigating the new FRL. 

Note: Since the implementation of the new FRL, some issues have been experienced by stakeholders in accessing current and updated legislation. These issues have largely been resolved and the Office of Parliamentary Council has provided that performance continues to improve and is generally more stable however, intermittent performance issues are noted to have occurred. A list of known issues is available here.  If members require further assistance, or experience any issues with the performance of the website, please contact the Federal Register of Legislation directly, here.  

Navigating the Federal Register of Legislation homepage 

The FRL homepage displays useful information, including a search function, recently viewed items, new and amended titles recently published, and allows access your subscriptions and account details. This document provides information for stakeholders on navigating the FRL homepage. 

A screenshot of the Commonwealth Coat of Arms of Australia with the words Australian Government to the right.To return to the homepage at any point, click on the Commonwealth Coat of Arms of Australia on the top (left) of any page of the website: 

Setting up an account for notifications 

Setting up an account allows stakeholders to receive email notifications and updates for legislation that you are interested in and to keep frequently accessed titles and searches in a place where you can easily find them.  See ‘How to set up My Account’ for more information, including on how to save search queries and titles to your account.  

Guides 

The FRL website provides resources to assist stakeholders in accessing information, including:  

  • Using the Register: Guidance on how to navigate and use the platform.  
  • Understanding Legislation: Resources to help you decipher legal language, provide reports and better understand the legislation on the platform.  

How to use Browse, Search and Advanced Search 

From the home page, stakeholders have the option to browse, search or to do an advanced search. The website provides that searching is best if you know some or all of the details of the legislation that you wish to access; if you are not sure exactly what you are looking for, browsing is best. 

  • Browsing: Legislation can be browsed by selecting the letter the legislation starts with (e.g., ‘T’ for Therapeutic Goods); the collection type (e.g., Act, Legislative instrument etc.); the name, year, or portfolio; and in force, not in force, or both.  
  • Searching: Searching for terms such as “permissible ingredients determination” using the default settings can result in numerous results without easily finding the document you are looking for. When searching from the home page, narrowing the search to search only the “Name” instead of the “Name and text” and further reducing results to “In force” legislation can help find the document you are looking for. This can be accessed by selecting the ‘In force’ tab when searching for legislation: 
  • Saving searches: Titles and searches can be saved for easy access to regularly viewed legislation. 
  • This ‘how to’ guide provides detailed advice on browsing, searching and advanced search functions. 

Links to legislation can also be found in current CMA Technical or Member Alerts in the ‘Resources’ section. 

As noted on the TGA website, if you intend to rely on legislation referred to on the TGA website (or in CMA alerts), you should access copies of the official versions on the Federal Register of Legislation website. Instruments are amended from time to time and may, on occasions, be replaced or new instruments made. 

  • Viewing: To view the text of the document, make sure the “Text” button is selected. At this point you can press the “Ctrl” + “f” keys together to search for words in the text. If you cannot find the text you are searching for, it may be in another volume of the legislation, which is visible in the left hand tab. The Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 has 2 volumes, and the Permissible Ingredients Determination has 6 volumes – “Withania” is found in Volume 6: 
  • Alternatively to viewing the text online, legislative documents can be downloaded under the “Downloads” button. However, CMA generally recommends using the web version to make sure you are always using the ‘In force’ version as legislation is updated from time to time. Amendments to legislation such as Acts can be viewed under the “All versions” button. 
  • Note: Some ‘Amendments’ to Acts or Regulations may state they are ‘No longer in force’ after the amendment has been incorporated into the main Act or Regulations that it was created to amend, where the legislation is now active in the main legislation. 
  • For example: Country of Origin representations (Made in Australia) for Complementary Medicines 

The Competition and Consumer Amendment (Australian Consumer Law—Country of Origin Representations) Regulations 2020, available here and appearing as ‘no longer in force’, amended the Competition and Consumer Regulations 2010 by repealing and substituting regulation 92AA to prescribe a process that complementary medicines have undergone in Australia to be substantially transformed for the purposes of paragraph 255(2)(c) of the Australian Consumer Law. The above now appears ‘No Longer in Force’ and the law is now incorporated and found in regulation 92AA of the Competition and Consumer Regulations 2010, available here

  • Unincorporated amendments that are in force and have commenced according to the information in the document, but are not yet compiled into an Act or other legislation that it is amending, are actively amending the main Act or other legislation even though it is not yet compiled into a single document. Generally, if there are important amendments affecting sponsors CMA provides relevant information in technical or member alerts. 

Accessing Explanatory Statements / Memoranda 

In modern times, an Explanatory Statement (ES) or Explanatory Memoranda (EM) is created for every new legislation or change to legislation. While they are essentially similar documents, Explanatory Memoranda is the term used for Bills that go through Parliament such as Acts and Amendments to Acts. Explanatory Statements apply to subordinate legislation including Regulations and legislative instruments like Determinations, Orders, the Poisons Standard, etc. 

Explanatory Memoranda assist members of Parliament, officials and the public to understand the objectives and detailed operation of the clauses of a Bill. Similarly, modern Explanatory Statements are intended to be a plain English explanation stating the authority for making a legislative instrument; the reasons for the new legislation or change; the likely impact and effect; the nature of any consultation undertaken or explanations as to why no such consultation was undertaken; a detailed provision-by-provision description of the instrument; and other relevant information. 

For example, Explanatory Statements include information such new, changed and removed ingredients from the Permissible Ingredients Determination, or substances that have been added or amended in the Poisons Standard.  

An ES/EM is included with each piece of legislation and is therefore associated with the “As made” version of a legislative instrument.  The ES for new legislative instruments (for example, almost every Poisons Standard and Permissible Ingredients Determination is made ‘new’) can be viewed by changing the View document dropdown from “Legislative instrument” to “Explanatory statement” (example highlighted yellow below). Word and PDF copies of a legislative instrument’s ES can also be accessed by navigating to the Download tab (example circled red below): 

If there are no options to view or download an ES/EM, you may be looking at an “incorporated” version of that legislation, in which case it will have multiple ES/EM, one for the original document and one for each amendment. To see them, you will need to navigate to the “As made” version for the original under “All versions”:  

To view the EM/ES for amendments, click on each Amendment of interest and follow the steps above to find from the View document dropdown. 

Note: Modern Acts and Amendments should all have EM available, however documents older than about the 1990’s, including the original Therapeutic Goods in Act in 1989 do not have them. For subordinate legislation including legislative instruments, ESs for each from 2005 onwards should be available on FRL, and some are available earlier than that. 

FAQs  

The FRL website also provides additional information on the FAQs webpage on searching for legislation by Register ID, including title and compilation IDs. 

Resources 

LinkedIn
Facebook
Twitter
Email

RECENT ARTICLES

Vale Stephen Myers

It is with great sadness that we learned of the passing of Emeritus Professor Stephen Myers late last week. Stephen was a giant in the

Read More