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Glossary

This glossary provides definitions for terms and concepts used on the Federal Register of Legislation (the Legislation Register).

For suggestions of additional terms or concepts to be included in the glossary please use our feedback form.

  • 1

    1st, 2nd and 3rd reading

    see readings (of a Bill)

  • A

    Act

    An Act is a statute or law passed by both Houses of Parliament that has received Royal Assent. On Royal Assent, Acts are given a year and number. Once an Act is formally enacted it can generally only be amended or repealed by another Act. When an Act changes, a compilation of the Act is prepared to show the Act as amended. Acts are also known as primary legislation.

    Act citations before 1 July 1976

    Amending Acts made in the years 1905 to 1976 amended the citation of the principal Act to include, in addition to the year of making, the year of amendment, for example the Customs Act 1901-1925. These amendments to the citation of the Act are not recorded on the Federal Register of Legislation as citation changes, nor the change in citation generally recorded for an Act compilation prepared. For further information on Act citations during this period, see the Amendments Incorporation Act 1905 (cited as the Acts Publication Act 1905 from 4 December 2009) and the Acts Citation Act 1976.

    Administrative Arrangements Orders (AAOs)

    The Administrative Arrangements Order or AAO is a document made by the Governor-General. It sets out the matters and Acts dealt with by each Department of State and its Minister(s). AAOs are not legislative instruments and are published by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Copies of almost all AAOs published since 1901 can be found on the Federal Register of Legislation.

    Administrator of the Commonwealth

    The Administrator of the Commonwealth is the person authorised by the Constitution to handle certain matters in the absence, death, incapacity, removal or resignation of the Governor-General. By convention the longest-serving State Governor is generally appointed as Administrator.

    agency

    An agency can be an Australian Government Department of State, another type of Australian Government body, or a State government body.

    For more information about the structure, organisations and key people in an agency or portfolio, go to the Government Online Directory.

    amending legislation

    Amending legislation is legislation that primarily amends or makes changes to other legislation. The changes may affect a few words, replace entire sections or repeal an entire piece of legislation. It is generally easy to recognise amending legislation from the title, which will usually include the word Amendment or Amending. An exception to this is that occasionally principal legislation may also amend (including repeal and revoke) other legislation. Amending legislation may include application, saving or transitional provisions. If amending instruments include these types of provisions, the instrument is not regarded as solely amending for the purposes of automatic repeal.

    amendment

    An amendment is a change to the law generally made by another law. An amendment can change or repeal an existing provision, or add a new provision.

    amendment history

    In the endnotes of a compilation, the amendment history lists the amendments that have been incorporated into the law and details how the text of the law was affected. Any unincorporated amendments known at the compilation date will be underlined in the amendment history to indicate that the amendment will commence in the future.

    application provision

    An application provision sets out situations or timeframes in which a law applies or does not apply.

    applied law

    The Australian Government administers the Ashmore and Cartier Islands, the Australian Antarctic Territory, Christmas Island, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, the Coral Sea Islands, the Heard and McDonald Islands, the Jervis Bay Territory and Norfolk Island. The Australian Government legislates for these Territories and for some of these Territories applies the laws of a nearby State. The State laws, as applied to a Territory, may be modified, suspended from operating or repealed by Ordinance.

    as made

    As made legislation is legislation in the form in which it was originally made. As made legislation reflects the law until its first amendment at which point a compilation is prepared.

    Assent
    authorised version

    The Federal Register of Legislation contains authorised versions of Acts, legislative instruments, notifiable instruments, explanatory statements for legislative instruments, gazettes and compilations of Acts, legislative instruments and notifiable instruments. An authorised version is always in a pdf file format and can be identified by the words Authorised version, ComLaw Authoritative Act, Federal Register of Legislative Instruments or Explanatory Statement to [unique identifier of the instrument it relates to] on the electronic or printed copy. An authorised version is taken to be a reliable source of information by a court or tribunal unless proven to the contrary.

    authorising legislation

    Authorising legislation is any law that authorises, enables or delegates somebody else to make additional laws on relevant details. The most common form of authorising legislation is an Act of Parliament.

    authoritative version
    automatic repeal

    If a provision or the whole of a legislative or notifiable instrument has the sole effect of amending, repealing or commencing another legislative or notifiable instrument, the instrument or provision is automatically repealed as soon as it has operated in full (see Chapter 3, Part 3, Division 1 of the Legislation Act 2003).

  • B

    Bill

    A Bill is a draft Act of Parliament. Under Australia's Constitution, a Bill may be introduced in either House of Parliament with the exception of a supply or money Bill which must be introduced in the House of Representatives. Depending on who introduced them, Bills may be referred to as:

    • Government Bills which are Bills introduced by Ministers or on behalf of Ministers. All Government Bills are drafted by the Office of Parliamentary Counsel (OPC);
    • Private Members Bills which can be introduced by any Senator or Member of Parliament.

    More information about Bills, including information about their passage through Parliament, can be found on the Bills and Legislation page of the Parliament of Australia website.

    For any Bill that passes, details of the originating Bill are found on the details page for the Act as made.

  • C

    cease/cease to have effect

    Legislation that no longer has legal effect but has not been formally repealed has ceased to have effect.

    commencement

    The commencement of a law is the time/date at which a law comes into force. Different parts of a law may come into force at different times.

    commencement instrument

    Commencement instruments are instruments that proclaim the commencement of another piece of legislation. From March 2016 onwards an instrument that has the sole effect of commencing a registered law (a commencement instrument) must in all cases be lodged for registration as a notifiable instrument under section 4 and paragraph 11(2)(a) of the Legislation Act 2003. Commencement instruments made between 2005 and 2016 were generally published as legislative instruments. Before 2005 many Act commencement proclamations were published in the Gazette.

    Commonwealth reserved law

    Following passage of the Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Act 1988, the Governor-General retained the power under section 12 of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910, to make laws (known as ordinances) on a narrow range of topics, e.g. classification of materials for censorship, land used or intended to be used for Commonwealth purposes (national land) and companies. Commonwealth reserved laws that continue to apply in the ACT can be found on the Federal Register of Legislation.

    compilation

    A compilation is a version of a law that shows the text of the law as amended at a particular point in time. The compilation number, compilation date and information to indicate which amendments have been incorporated in the compilation can be found on the front page of the compilation and in the endnotes.

    compilation date

    The compilation date is the date from which the text of the law shown in the compilation applies.

    compilation number

    The compilation number is a version number for the compilation given when a compilation is prepared.

    Constitution, The

    The Australian Constitution was drafted at two conventions in the 1890s and approved by the people of the colonies of Australia at a series of referendums between 1898 and 1900. It was passed as an Act of the British Parliament and received Royal Assent from Queen Victoria on 9 July 1900.

    When the Commonwealth of Australia Act commenced on 1 January 1901 it established the Australian Government and gave the Australian Parliament the power to make laws on certain matters (mostly listed in sections 51 and 52). The six colonies became Australia's six states, and have the power to make laws on a much wider range of matters. However, if a valid Commonwealth law is inconsistent with the law of a State, then the Commonwealth law overrides the State law. The Constitution also establishes the Queen as a part of the Parliament (section 1), and allows her powers to be exercised by the Governor-General (section 61).

    correction
  • D

    delegated legislation
    Department (of State)

    A reference within the law to a Department means the Australian Government department whose Minister administers the matter to which the reference relates. This principle is set out in the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 (see section 19A). A list of the departments in existence at various times can be found in the Administrative Arrangements Orders. The AAOs are published by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and copies of most AAOs can be found on the Federal Register of Legislation.

    disallowable instruments

    Disallowable instruments are instruments that must be tabled and are open to Parliamentary veto or disallowance for a set period, usually fifteen sitting days. All new legislative instruments are subject to disallowance unless they have been granted an exemption.

    disallowance

    Disallowance is a form of repeal of disallowable instruments initiated by the Parliament. The Parliament, with a majority vote in either House of the Parliament, may disallow a disallowable instrument in part or in full. This may result in an instrument ceasing to have effect and reviving an earlier instrument. If an instrument is disallowed, generally the rule-maker may not make an instrument similar in substance for 6 months.

  • E

    editorial changes

    An editorial change is a change made to a compilation by the First Parliamentary Counsel under section 15V of the Legislation Act 2003 in preparing a compilation for registration. The changes must not change the effect of the law. Details of any editorial changes are included in the compilation endnotes and are published on the Federal Register of Legislation (see Editorial Changes Reports).

    enabling legislation
    endnotes

    Endnotes are found towards the end of a compilation and provide information about the compilation. A typical endnote will include an abbreviation key, legislation history and amendment history. Additional information about other matters such as any editorial changes, misdescribed amendment and application, saving or transitional provisions are included in the endnotes when required.

    Executive Council
    explanatory material

    Explanatory material is material which is prepared as a law is developed that explains how it is expected to operate. A court may use this and other "extrinsic" material to interpret what a law means if it is unclear under section 15AB of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901.

    The Federal Register of Legislation contains a range of explanatory material including explanatory statements and some regulatory impact statements.

    Explanatory Memorandum (EM)

    An explanatory memorandum or EM is a document that sets out how a Bill is expected to operate and details about individual provisions. The EM focuses on the Bill as it was when introduced to the Parliament, and will not pick up changes made to the Bill after introduction. If Parliamentary amendments to the Bill are made, a supplementary EM may be issued. Information on the progress of Bills, amendments to Bills and copies of associated explanatory memoranda are available on the Bills and Legislation page of the Parliament of Australia website.

    Explanatory Statement (ES)

    An explanatory statement or ES is a document that sets out how a legislative instrument is expected to operate and details about individual provisions. There are 3 types of explanatory statements:

    • an initial explanatory statement - a statement approved by the rule-maker for the instrument as it was made;
    • a replacement explanatory statement - a statement approved by the rule-maker that replaces the initial explanatory statement that has already been registered;
    • a supplementary explanatory statement - a statement approved by the rule-maker that amends an initial or replacement explanatory statement.

    Explanatory statements for all legislative instruments made since 1 January 2005, and for some older legislative instruments, are available on their title page.

  • F

    Federal Executive Council

    The Federal Executive Council is established by the Constitution to advise the Governor-General. For more information see the Federal Executive Council Handbook published by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

    Federal Register of Legislation

    The Federal Register of Legislation (the Register) is a database or permanent repository of versions (including authorised versions) of Acts, legislative instruments, notifiable instruments and compilations of Acts and instruments together with associated documents and information including explanatory statements and Gazette notices. It is established under section 15A of the Legislation Act 2003.

    first reading
    future law compilation

    A future law compilation is a compilation that shows the text of an amended law as it is expected to read in the future. It is not an authorised version, and further changes may be proposed and made to the law before the expected amendments commence. Future law compilations are only published in special circumstances.

  • G

    Government Gazette

    Government Gazette notices concerning legislation, and other notices required by Commonwealth law to be published in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, are published on the Federal Register of Legislation. A number of other specialist gazettes are published by other Australian Government agencies. Specialist gazettes may be published at varying intervals, may overlap with notices published on the Federal Register of Legislation or may publish material not available on the Federal Register of Legislation.

    Government Notices Gazettes (including Periodic and Special) published between 1 January 1901 and 1 October 2012 are available in PDF format on the Federal Register of Legislation, under Gazettes 1901 - September 2012 . From 1 October 2012 onwards the Gazette has been published in electronic format only as individually searchable notices. Printed copies of Government Gazettes published before 1 October 2012 are also available at State Libraries throughout Australia or the National Library in Canberra. State and Territory Governments Gazettes are published on the relevant State or Territory government website.

    Governor-General

    As the King's representative in Australia, the Governor-General performs a large number of functions under Australia's Constitution. The Governor-General generally acts in accordance with advice received from Commonwealth Ministers through the Federal Executive Council, although the Governor-General does not have to do so when it comes to some powers.

  • I

    in force

    In force legislation is legislation that is on the statute book and has the force of law. On the Federal Register of Legislation, legislation that has been made but not yet commenced is also displayed in the in force listings. In force legislation does not include draft legislation such as Bills or legislation that has ceased, repealed or sunsetted.

    item page

    see title page.

  • L

    legislation

    Legislation consists of Acts of Parliament and the subordinate legislation made under them. The term legislation can refer to a single law or to a collection of laws.

    legislation history

    In the endnotes of a compilation, the legislation history lists all the legislation that has amended the text of the principal legislation. Details of what has or has not been incorporated into the text will usually be set out in the amendment history.

    legislative instruments (LIs)

    Legislative instruments or LIs are laws on matters of detail made by a person or body authorised to do so by the relevant authorising legislation. Examples of LIs include regulations, rules and determinations. Under the Legislation Act 2003, all legislative instruments must be registered on the Federal Register of Legislation.

    The Federal Register of Legislation contains authorised versions of every legislative instrument made since 1 January 2005 and every instrument made before then but still in force on 1 January 2008.

    letters patent

    There are two very different kinds of instrument that are known as letters patent. One is an ancient form of instrument made without reference to the Parliament under royal prerogative, that is, a prerogative instrument. Copies of recent prerogative instruments are available on the Federal Register of Legislation. The other type of instrument is patents which are now governed by the Patents Act 1990. A comprehensive database of Australian patents granted since 1904 is maintained by IP Australia .

    long title

    see title.

  • M

    making

    Making is the process by which a rule-maker signs, seals or otherwise endorses a new law. Where the Governor-General endorses an Act passed by the Australian Parliament, this process is referred to as Royal Assent.

    Minister

    References within a law to a Minister means the Minister or Ministers responsible for administering the law unless stated otherwise. This principle is set out in subsection 19(1) of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901.

    Misdescribed amendment

    A misdescribed amendment is an amendment that does not accurately describe how an amendment is to be made. If, despite the misdescription, the amendment can be given effect as intended, then the misdescribed amendment can be incorporated through an editorial change made under section 15V of the Legislation Act 2003. If a misdescribed amendment cannot be given effect as intended, the amendment is not incorporated and (md not incorp) is added to the amendment history.

    modification

    A modification is an alteration to the text of a law that is not permanent or only applies to particular locations or cases. Modifications have effect as if they were amendments, but do not actually amend. It is quite possible for a number of modifications, inconsistent with one another, to be applied to the same provision for various different cases. Modifications are not compiled into the principal legislation. For more information on any modifications, see the Related tab > Modifies/Affects on the Federal Register of Legislation.

  • N

    no longer in force

    Legislation that ceases to have effect or that has been repealed is no longer in force.

    Norfolk Island Continued Laws

    Norfolk Island is an external Australian territory governed under the Norfolk Island Act 1979. In 2015, the Norfolk Island Legislation Amendment Act 2015 made changes to legal and governance arrangements for Norfolk Island. This included the abolition of the Legislative Assembly of Norfolk Island on 18 June 2015. Laws that were in force on Norfolk Island at that time continued in force, and can be amended, repealed or suspended by Ordinance made under the Norfolk Island Act 1979. The Norfolk Island continued laws collection contains:

    • laws passed by the former Legislative Assembly of Norfolk Island and assented to before 18 June 2015 (and laws made under those laws); and
    • versions of those laws as amended, repealed or suspended by Commonwealth Acts or Ordinances under the Norfolk Island Act 1979 (or laws made under those Ordinances) on or after 18 June 2015.
    notes
    notifiable instruments

    Notifiable instruments are laws on matters of detail made by a person or body authorised to do so by authorising legislation. An instrument that has the sole effect of commencing a registered law (a commencement instrument) must in all cases be lodged for registration as a notifiable instrument (see section 4 and paragraph 11(2)(a) of the Legislation Act 2003). This also applies to any instrument that announces the day that an international agreement enters into force for Australia, regardless of whether the treaty itself is ever registered (see section 8(1) of the Legislation (Exemptions and Other Matters) Regulation 2015).

    Unlike legislative instruments, notifiable instruments are not subject to Parliamentary disallowance and do not automatically sunset 10 years after commencement. Notifiable instruments are subject to automatic repeal if they solely provide for the amendment, repeal or commencement of Acts or other instruments. The Federal Register of Legislation contains authorised versions of notifiable instruments made since March 2016.

    numbered laws

    Some types of law such as Acts of Parliament are issued with a unique number as part of their making and they may be referred to by this number instead of by name (see subparagraph 40(1A)(a)(ii) of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901).

  • O

    ordinances

    An ordinance is a form of subordinate legislation which usually applies only in a certain local area. Some Commonwealth ordinances are classified as legislative instruments, meaning they are published on the Federal Register of Legislation as an authorised version.

    See the Australia's Territories page to locate all legislation relevant to a given territory including ordinances, by-laws, regulations and Acts.

  • P

    perfect bound

    Perfect binding is a widely used soft cover book binding method. With this binding method, the pages and cover are glued together at the spine with a strong yet flexible thermal glue. The other three sides of the book are then trimmed as needed to give them clean perfect edges.

    point-in-time

    A point-in-time version sets out the law at a particular point in time. As amendments are made to the law, new versions of the law are compiled and published. Point-in-time legislation allows users to access the version of a law in force today as well as a version of the law as it appeared at a particular point in the past. Users of the Federal Register of Legislation should use the effective date range found on the All Versions tab on the legislation title page to help them to select the particular version they require.

    Information about any retrospective amendments can be found on the All Versions tab on the legislation title page and on the Details tab of the affected compilation.

    preamble

    A preamble sets out the reasons for and scope of a law. This information may also be found in a laws explanatory material.

    prepared date

    Some older compilations may contain a prepared date. The prepared date relates to when the compilation was prepared. It does not relate to the date it was registered or the point in time that the compilation reflects the amended law. The date a compilation was prepared was required to be included on registered compilations until 5 March 2016.

    prerogative instruments

    Prerogative instruments are an ancient form of law making inherited from England and are instruments made by the Governor-General or monarch without reference to Parliament under the royal prerogative which is that power of the Crown still existing and not superseded by parliamentary legislation.

    Prerogative instruments include instruments which establish national honours such as the Order of Australia, and the procedures for granting them. These instruments are usually published in the gazette and most recent ones are also available on the Federal Register of Legislation. They are sometimes called letters patent.

    primary legislation

    Acts of Parliament are sometimes referred to as primary legislation. Acts can authorise a person or body other than the Parliament to make laws on matters of detail through subordinate legislation.

    principal legislation

    Principal legislation, as opposed to amending legislation, is the legislation that deals with a particular topic or area of the law. Whilst principal legislation may amend other legislation, its primary job is to set out new law rather than amend other laws.

  • R

    readers guide

    A readers guide generally provides information about how a law is organised and related to other laws. This information may also be found in a laws explanatory material.

    readings

    As a Bill passes through the Parliament, it is read to each House at least three times. The first and third readings usually involve a parliamentary Clerk reading the Bills long title. The second reading is the most significant, in that the Member or Senator responsible for introducing the Bill gives a speech about what the Bill will do and why it is important. There may also be some debate, and debate may continue even after the third reading.

    rectification

    Any mistakes, omissions or other errors on the Federal Register of Legislation must be rectified as soon as possible and must include a statement about the rectification (see section 15D of the Legislation Act 2003). If a rectification is made to a document, both the original and rectified document will be available on the Federal Register of Legislation. Rectifications have previously been known as corrections.

    registered

    An item is registered when it is published on the Federal Register of Legislation for the first time.

    registered law

    Registered law is defined under section 15Z of the Legislation Act 2003 and includes Acts, legislative instruments and notifiable instruments, and compilations of Acts, legislative instruments and notifiable instruments, registered on the Federal Register of Legislation.

    Regulations

    Most Regulations are made under an Act of Parliament and are classified as legislative instruments. Some prerogative instruments also have the word Regulations in their title. Regulations were part of the Statutory Rules series from 1904 until 2005, and the Select Legislative Instrument series from 2005 until 2015.

    Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS)

    A RIS is a document prepared by the department, agency, statutory authority or board responsible for a regulatory policy proposal that formalises and provides evidence of the key steps taken during the development of the proposal, and includes an assessment of the costs and benefits of each option. They are routinely published on the Federal Register of Legislation with the legislation they relate to. Guidance on preparing a RIS is available from The Office of Best Practice Regulation website.

    repeal

    A repeal is the removal of a law or provision of that law from the statute book. If a provision is repealed, a new compilation will be prepared to remove the provision. A law that has been repealed will display on the Federal Register of Legislation as no longer in force.

    rescission

    An instrument that has been disallowed by a House of the Parliament may not be remade within six months of the disallowance unless the disallowing House has rescinded or cancelled the disallowance motion.

    responsible person

    For an Act, the responsible person is the Minister currently responsible for administering an Act or provision of an Act. For an instrument, the responsible person is the rule-maker for the instrument. The responsible person has specific obligations under the Legislation Act 2003.

    Royal Assent

    A Bill passed by the Australian Parliament does not become an Act until it is formally accepted by the Governor-General. This particular process for making laws is referred to as Royal Assent.

    rule-maker

    The rule-maker is generally a person or body who is authorised to make a law. The rule-maker has specific obligations under the Legislation Act 2003.

  • S

    saving provision

    A saving provision allows some or all of a repealed law to remain in force under specific circumstances. When large-scale changes to the law are proposed, a saving provision is sometimes enacted into a separate law such as a Consequential and Transitional Provisions Act. If a law is affected by a saving provision this will usually be noted in the endnotes.

    second reading

    see readings (of a Bill).

    secondary legislation
    Select legislative instruments (SLIs) [2005-2015]

    The Select Legislative Instrument Series was a numbering series applied to instruments made by the Governor-General that consisted mostly of Regulations and Rules of Court. This series started after the repeal of the Statutory Rules Publication Act 1903 on 1 January 2005. SLIs were available on the Federal Register of Legislation up to the end of 2015 after which time SLI numbering was ceased.

    short title

    see title.

    statutes

    A statute is another term for a law, legislation or a collection of legislation. The statute book is generally a reference to all legislation that is in force at a particular point in time.

    Statutory Rules (SRs) [1904-2004]

    Statutory rules or SRs included all Regulations made under an Act of Parliament, rules of court and certain other instruments required to be printed under the Statutory Rules Publication Act 1903. The Statutory Rules series ceased on 1 January 2005 after the repeal of the Statutory Rules Publication Act 1903. In 2005, instruments that would have been included in the Statutory Rules series were numbered in the Select Legislative Instrument (SLI) series. This SLI series was discontinued at the end of 2015.

    subordinate legislation

    Subordinate legislation, also referred to as delegated or secondary legislation, is legislation enabled or authorised by primary legislation (generally an Act of Parliament).

    sunsetting

    Some laws have an expiry date and they are automatically repealed after that date if no action is taken. Most legislative instruments will sunset 10 years after commencement under Chapter 3, Part 4 of the Legislation Act 2003.

    superseded

    Superseded legislation on the Federal Register of Legislation consists of compilations that have been replaced by later point-in-time versions of the law. Compilations of Acts and instruments display on the All Versions tab on the legislation title page as a list with the document at the top being marked as in the latest version and previous point in time versions marked as superseded.

  • T

    table of contents

    A table of contents is a list of heading and sections, generally with page references, at the start of a piece of legislation. This list is sometimes referred to as a table of provisions.

    tabled

    When documents are presented to the Australian Parliament in the course of its proceedings, they are said to have been tabled. This term dates back to historic practices, when documents were actually placed on a table in each House of the Parliament. All legislative instruments are required to be tabled shortly after registration.

    third reading

    see readings (of a Bill).

    title

    The title of a law refers to a laws official title. If a law has both a short title and a long title, its best to cite it by its short title. An example of an Acts long and short title is:

    Long title: "An Act providing for public access to Acts and instruments, for the making, parliamentary scrutiny and sunsetting of legislative instruments and for the repeal of spent instruments and provisions, and for other purposes"

    Short title: Legislation Act 2003

    title page

    On the Federal Register of Legislation the title page displays key information relating to that title.

    transitional provision

    A transitional provision sets out the special arrangements that apply when changes to the law are implemented over an extended period. Transitional provisions are sometimes put together into a separate law such as a Consequential and Transitional Provisions Act. If a law is affected by a transitional provision this will usually be noted in the endnotes.

    treaties

    A treaty is an agreement between countries (sovereign states), and some treaties involving Australia have been given force of law by including or referring to them in Acts or legislative instruments.

    For more information about the treaties to which Australia is a party, see the DFAT treaties database hosted by AustLII and the UN website.

  • U

    unincorporated amendment

    An unincorporated amendment is an amendment that has not been incorporated into a compilation of the law. An amendment will not be incorporated if the amendment has not yet commenced.

Understanding legislation