UTS Library

Hansard, Second Reading Speeches and Explanatory Materials

Before an Act becomes Law, it is first put before Parliament as a Bill. Extrinsic material (ie material related to, but not part of the legislation), can assist in interpretation, including:

  • Explanatory Memoranda (EM) or Explanatory Notes (EN)
  • Bills Digests
  • Parliamentary Committee Reports
  • Law Reform Commission Reports
  • Second Reading Speeches

As the Bill passes through Parliament, it will be outlined in detail during the Second Reading Speech and then debated and possibly amended. These debates can provide further background about a Bill's purpose and can be found in the record of Parliamentary proceedings known as Hansard.

Note: This guide focuses on Commonwealth and NSW legislation. If you require help with another jurisdiction, please contact the Library.

Hansard & second reading speeches

What is Hansard?

The progress of a Bill through the Parliament is recorded in an official publication known as Hansard (Parliamentary Debates). The Bill must pass through stages known as First, Second and Third Readings, before it becomes law.

First Reading

This stage introduces the name of the long name of the Bill to the House.

Second Reading

At the beginning of the Second Reading stage, the Minister responsible for the Bill states:

I move that the Bill now be read a second time...

and proceeds to give the Second Reading Speech. The speech outlines the policy behind the proposed legislation, its general principles, and purpose. Following the speech, a debate will take place, discussing the principles proposed by the Minister or member who made the speech.

Third Reading

When a Bill passes through its Third Reading stage, this indicates that the Bill has been voted on and approved by Parliament. This is the final stage in the passage of a Bill through a House of Parliament.

Finding Hansard


ParlInfo Search

Q. Find the Second Reading debate for the Native Title Bill 1993

In the Basic Search box type "native title bill 1993" "second reading" > Check that the 'Order by' option is set to 'Date (Oldest first) & run search > You can use the filter options on the left-hand side to view the House and Senate debate separately.

Tip: The debate may run over a number of days, weeks, or even months. Each section of the Hansard will be dated so that you can read chronologically.

You can also access Commonwealth Hansard from:

New South Wales

Parliament of New South Wales

Q. What did the NSW Minister say about the Greater Sydney Commission Bill 2015?

Select Advanced Search > select Bills > in the Bill Title box type Sydney and commission > from the results list select the Greater Sydney Commission Bill 2015 > download the Explanatory Notes, Digest and Second Reading Speeches.

 Note: Second Reading Speeches are available online from Bill homepages from 1997 onwards.

 You can also access NSW Hansard from:

Finding the date of the second reading speech

Before you can find a second reading speech you need to find out the date on which it took place. There are a number of ways to do this.

Federal Statutes Annotations

Statutes Annotations are research tools that contain a range of information about legislation, which can include the date of the Second Reading Speech.

Q. What was the date of the House of Representatives Second Reading Speech for the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 (Cth)?

At the Table of Contents page expand the Annotations section, then use the alphabetical listing to browse to I > IN > select Income Tax Assessment Act 1997.

Underneath the title of the Act the information in square brackets provides the following information:

[Assent 17 Apr 1997 opn on 1 Jul 1997. Second reading speeches: House of Reps 19 Jun 1996; Senate 31 Oct 1996]

Finding the date in the Numbered Act

The date of the Second Reading Speech for both Houses of Parliament is given at the end of the Numbered Act:

  • Commonwealth - from approximately 1985 onwards
  • NSW - from approximately 1988 onwards

Numbered Acts are also referred to as Sessional Acts or Acts as Made. They are the original versions of legislation as passed by the Parliament. Acts are numbered sequentially throughout the year.


Federal Register of Legislation

Q. What was the date of the second reading speech in the Senate for the Safe Work Australia Act 2008 (Cth)?

Access the menu Acts > select As Made > browse the alphabetical listing to S > SA > select Safe Work Australia Act 2008

Scroll to the bottom of the Act - you will see the following information:

[Minister’s second reading speech made in—House of Representatives on 13 May 2009; Senate on 13 August 2009]

New South Wales

NSW Legislation

Q. What was the date of the second reading speeches in both houses for the Legal Profession Act 2004 (NSW)?

Access the menu Browse > under the 'Acts' heading select C > then scroll down and select Civil Procedure Act 2005

Select Historical Notes. Under the 'Table of Amending Instruments' heading you will see the following information:

Second reading speech made: Legislative Assembly, 6.4.2005; Legislative Council, 24.5.2005

You can also access numbered Acts from:

  • Commonwealth:
  • New South Wales:


These are variously called Explanatory Notes in New South Wales and Explanatory Memoranda in the Commonwealth jurisdiction. Note that Explanantory Notes were introduced in 1999 and accompany all Public Acts except Appropriation, Consolidated Fund, Financa and Consolidated Acts.

LawOne (select key info)

LawNow (search via Bills)