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Researching Legislation


It is sometimes necessary to establish the content of an Act at a specific point in time. For example, for auditing purposes you may need to check which tax rates applied at a certain time in the past, or indeed what the tax law was at the time before the introduction of GST.

This has been variously called: point in time, backdating or historical approach to legislation. You can use a mixture of print and online resources to update legislation to a particular point in time.

Legislation to a point in time

The most thorough method is to:

  1. Locate an online compilation of the act.
  2. Browse to the legislative history in the Notes table at the end of the act.
  3. Look at the Table of Acts to see the history of amendments to the Act. (Note that Reprints are not listed in Cth acts.) You can check the latest reprint in Federal Statutes Annotations.
  4. Make a note of the amendments up to the point in time in which you are interested.

Historical Compilations Online

The Federal Register of Legislation, Victorian Legislation and Parliamentary Documents, Lawlex and LawNow include historical superseded compilations. (A compilation becomes superseded each time the act is amended.)

Federal Register of Legislation

  1. Select Acts from the top of the screen
  2. Browse for act in either the Current tab or the Historical tab
  3. Once you find the Act, select View Series
  4. Superseded versions of compilations are listed beneath the current compilation


Search for Act by name or number and select View Series to see all previous compilations.

Victorian Legislation

This website directs you to AustLII for Historical Acts from 1885-1995.


  1. Search for the Act by title
  2. At the Act's Core Document Homepage, select Historical Versions

LawNow Legislation (Lexis Advance)

  1. Search for the Act by title
  2. Open the Act's page
  3. Select Historical Versions

History of Specific Provisions within Acts

  1. Locate an online compilation of the act.
  2. Find the relevant section(s).
  3. Note the number of amending Act(s) which have affected the provision(s).
  4. Go to Endnote 2, Table of Amendments, which lists all amendments made to the Act, including those made by subordinate instruments. It is arranged by oldest amendments first, so if you are looking at a recent amendment, go to the end of the table.
  5. Find the amending Act number within the table, which provides title information, assent date and commencement information for the amending Act.