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Style Manual

Acts of parliament

Refer to Acts of parliament using the correct style so people can find the source material. Choose when to cite the short and long titles, series numbers, jurisdiction and sections.

Style for Act titles is title case, not always italics

Use title case (maximal capitalisation) for the titles of Acts. Use italics for the first mention of these titles.

Use roman type for the titles of Acts in reference lists and other long lists. Blocks of italics are difficult to read.

The year the legislation is first enacted forms part of the title. Don’t use a comma before the year.

Correct

Export Control Act 2020

Incorrect

Export control Act, 2020

Include all the words in the title. If the title begins with ‘The’, ‘An’ or ‘A’, make sure you include it.

Example

A New Tax System (Goods and Services Tax) Act 1999

The Commercial Bank of Australia Limited (Merger) Act 1982 (NSW)

If the Act’s title has a number, include the number exactly as written. The contraction ‘No.’ retains the full stop in this situation, which is an exception to the general rule for the shortened form for ‘number’.

Example

Supply Act (No. 1) 2019–2020

Farm Household Support Amendment (Relief Measures) Act (No. 2) 2019

An Act has a short title (its name) and long title (a description). Both appear after the list of contents in the text of the Act. The long title appears as a heading before section 1 of the Act. The short title is named in section 1.

Example

An Act relating to Currency, Coinage and Legal Tender [Long title]

Part I—Preliminary

1 Short title

This Act may be cited as the Currency Act 1965. [Short title]

At first mention, use the short title in italics

The first time you name the Act in text, use the short title in italics.

Example

The Currency Act 1965 established the Royal Australian Mint to produce Australia’s circulating coins. The Act also sets restrictions on amounts that can be paid in coins as ‘legal tender’.

After first mention, use the short title in roman type without the year

Always use the short title in italics the first time you cite the Act in your text.

If there are subsequent mentions of the Act, use the short title in roman type without the year.

Add the shortened form in parentheses at the first mention if it does more than just remove the year or the word ‘Act’ from the title.

Example

… was convicted of federal offences under the Crimes Act 1914. The Crimes Act specifies …

… was convicted of federal offences under the Criminal Code Act 1995. The Criminal Code has a constitutional basis ...

Comcare administers the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act). The WHS Act requires that a person who ... [The shortened form goes with the first mention as it removes more than the year from the title.]

Or use the informal title in roman type

Often, Acts also have a shorter informal title. This is usually an initialism or acronym of the short title.

At first mention, include the informal title in parentheses after the title. Use the informal title after that.

Use title case and roman type for the informal title.

Example

… in the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act). … Section 10 of the PGPA Act defines a Commonwealth entity as …

Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act)

Each Act has a series number to use in citations

Acts are also identified by series. Every Act made in a year is given a number starting at 1.

The series appears in the text of the Act immediately under the title, for example ‘Act No. 137 of 1979’.

Using the series in general text helps people identify the particular Act and find it in the Legislation Register. Series are also used in annotations and in notes.

Example

The Australian Citizenship Act 2007, by virtue of amendments made in 2013 (Act No. 57 of 2013), gives the Minister the discretionary power to …

Jurisdiction is an important detail

It is important to identify the jurisdiction of the Act – that is, whether it is an Act of:

  • the Commonwealth
  • a state or territory.

This helps people find the Act and understand where it applies. There are 2 ways to do this.

Write a sentence that makes jurisdiction clear

The first way is to write a sentence that explains where the Act originates. This method is useful in documents that don’t mention legislation frequently.

Example

The Tasmanian Local Government Act 1993 gave councils greater autonomy to act independently of the state government.

Tasmania’s Local Government Act 1993

Use the shortened form of the jurisdiction in the Act’s title in roman type and in parentheses

Alternatively, insert the jurisdiction’s shortened form in roman type in parentheses after the italicised title.

Use these shortened forms:

  • Cth (the Commonwealth)
  • ACT (Australian Capital Territory)
  • NT (Northern Territory)
  • NSW (New South Wales)
  • Qld (Queensland)
  • SA (South Australia)
  • Tas (Tasmania)
  • Vic (Victoria)
  • WA (Western Australia).

None of these shortened forms for jurisdictions are punctuated.

Example

Australia’s water resources in the Murray–Darling Basin are managed by laws of the Commonwealth and Basin States. Among others, this legislation includes the Water Act 2007 (Cth), Water Resources Act 2007 (ACT), Water Management Act 2000 (NSW), Water Act 2000 (Qld), Natural Resources Management Act 2004 (SA) and Water Act 1989 (Vic).

Dugong are defined as ‘fish’ for the purposes of the Marine Act 1981 (NT).

An initial capital is correct, whether the reference is generic or not

Always use capitals for the words ‘Act’ and ‘Acts’ when you write about Acts of parliament. This avoids possible confusion in publications, even those that are mostly about the law. The words ‘act’ and ‘acts’ have several meanings.

Example

Staff must read the Act to understand their compliance responsibilities.

The basic unit of an Act is a section (s)

An Act contains sections, which are often divided into subsections. Subsections might be divided into paragraphs and subparagraphs.

Use lower case for these units unless they begin a sentence.

Sections are usually grouped into parts, divisions and subdivisions. An Act only has subdivisions if there are divisions. Some larger Acts – for example, the Criminal Code Act 1995 – group these units into chapters.

Always use an initial capital for a specific reference to a ‘Chapter’, ‘Part’, ‘Division’ or ‘Subdivision’.

Choose how to cite units below section level

Commonwealth Acts cite units at the smallest unit below section level. This is a convention used by the Office of Parliamentary Counsel in legislative drafting.

Some jurisdictions cite at section level.

Example

These citations specify the smallest unit of text:

  • section 113V
  • subsection 113V(4)
  • paragraph 113V(4)(a)
  • subparagraph 113V(4)(a)(ii).

Other jurisdictions might cite as ‘section 113V(4)(a)(ii)’. [A citation at section level]

Whether to cite at section level or below will depend on the context for your content. You can choose which method to follow.

Content that discuss the operation and effect of certain subsections, paragraphs and subparagraphs will cite at the smallest unit level. A general discussion about the provisions of an Act might only cite at section level.

Follow in-house style. Otherwise, be guided by the type of content you’re writing, and its purpose and audience.

Don’t use a full stop after the shortened forms of units

The units of an Act are written in long or shortened form (an abbreviation or contraction), depending on the context. Never begin a sentence with the shortened form.

Don’t use a full stop after the shortened form when you use it in a citation or note.

The units of an Act
Long form Example Shortened form Example
Part The Auditor-General’s main functions and powers are defined in Part 4 of the Act. Pt ... the Auditor-General Act 1997 (Cth), Pts 4 and 6.
Division … under Division 2 of Part 9 of the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 Div ... the LEPRA, Div 2, Pt 9.
Subdivision … under Subdivision 20-A of the Commonwealth Tax Agent Services Act 2009 (TASA). Subdiv ... the TASA, Subdiv 20-A.
section Section 476B of the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) provides … s ... the Copyright Act 1968, s 4.
subsection Subsection 7(7) of the Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973. subs The Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973, subs 7(7) requires …
subsections Subsections 6 and 6A require the Tribunal to … subss ... to the Chief Minister of the ACT (subss 6, 6A).
paragraph ... is described in paragraph 21(3)(a). para … the offences as defined (para 11.2A(1)).
paragraphs Paragraphs 17(1)(a)–(c) outline ... paras ... produce documents when required (paras 17(1)(a)–(c)).
subparagraph Subparagraph 2A (a)(iv) allows ... subpara ... the Crimes Act 1914, subpara 2A(a)(iv).
subparagraphs Under subparagraphs 8ZD(2)(b)(i)–(ii) ... subparas ... the Taxation Administration Act 1953, subparas 8ZD(2)(b)(i)–(ii).

Titles of Acts from other countries are in roman type

Write all legislation from foreign countries in roman type, followed by the country abbreviation.

If you’re not sure of an abbreviation, write the sentence to make the jurisdiction clear.

Example

Digital Economy Act 2017 (UK)

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (US)

Arms Legislation Act 2019 (NZ)

Foreign Investment Act 1999 (FIJ)

Fiji’s Foreign Investment Act 1999

Reference to Australia’s Constitution needs capitalisation only

Always capitalise ‘Constitution’ when writing about Australia’s Constitution.

The Constitution was enacted by the British Parliament. The long title of the Act is the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 (UK).

Like all foreign Acts of parliament, it is written in roman type, not italics.

The original version is available on the UK Government Legislation website. A compilation including amendments is on the Legislation Register.

How you refer to Australia’s Constitution depends on the context.

  • Write ‘the Constitution’ when it’s clear that you’re referring to Australia’s Constitution.
  • If you’re unsure, use ‘the Australian Constitution’ so there’s no confusion.

Release notes

The digital edition has considerable advice on how to cite legal material. It includes new material on Commonwealth tribunals and Australian Tax Office rulings. It expands on sixth edition information on treaties.

The digital edition departs from sixth edition guidance about the capitalisation, punctuation and italicisation of citation elements for some legal material. The current edition also recommends the contraction ‘Cth’ rather than ‘Cwlth’.

These departures are informed by legal material and general publications from Australian courts, government agencies working in the legislative context and academic sources. The digital edition style is for general, rather than specialist, legal content.

The Content Guide briefly mentioned legislation in relation to capitalisation. There was no detailed guidance about how to cite legislation.

About this page

References

Attorney-General’s Department (2017) Style guide, Australian Government, Canberra.

Department of the House of Representatives (2018) ‘Bills — the parliamentary process’, in Elder DR (ed) House of Representatives practice, 7th edn, Department of the House of Representatives, accessed 16 June 2020.

Department of the Senate (2016) ‘Chapter 12: legislation’, in Laing R (ed) Odgers’ Senate practice, 14th edn, Department of the Senate, accessed 16 June 2020.

Hansard (2020) Hansard style guide, Department of Parliamentary Services, Parliament of Australia, Canberra.

Melbourne University Law Review Association Inc and Melbourne Journal of International Law (2018) Australian guide to legal citation, 4th edn, Melbourne University Law Review Association Inc, accessed 16 June 2020.

OPC (Office of Parliamentary Counsel) (n.d.) Acts: in force, OPC website, accessed 16 June 2020. 

OPC (n.d.) Drafting directions, OPC website, accessed 16 June 2020.

OPC (n.d.) Drafting manuals, OPC, accessed 16 June 2020.

OPC (n.d.) Glossary, Federal Register of Legislation website, accessed 16 June 2020.

OPC (n.d.) Information, Federal Register of Legislation website, accessed 16 June 2020.

Parliamentary Library (n.d.) Key internet links on Australian law, Parliament of Australia website, accessed 16 June 2020.

Parliamentary Library (2017) The 45th Parliament: parliamentary handbook of the Commonwealth of Australia 2017, Department of Parliamentary Services, Parliament of Australia, accessed 16 June 2020.

PM&C (Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet) (2017) Legislation handbook, PM&C, accessed 16 June 2020.

Thomson Reuters Australia (2017) ‘Legislation and commentary table of abbreviations’, Westlaw AU Guides, Thomson Reuters Australia, accessed 16 June 2020.

University of Technology Sydney and University of New South Wales Faculties of Law (n.d.) Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLII), AustLII website, accessed 16 June 2020.

Whitbread D and Leary K (2016a) AGS editorial style guide, Australian Government Solicitor, Canberra.

Whitbread D and Leary K (2016b) AGS style guide: summary, Australian Government Solicitor, Canberra.

This page was updated Sunday 20 September 2020.

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