The EM (Explanatory Memorandum) is an extremely useful document in Australian legal research. Many people just assume that every parliament in the Australian federal system has always produced an EM for every Bill. Unfortunately this is not true.
Last week I was asked to find an EM for a 1980 South Australian Act. But they don’t exist, instead the end portion of the their Second Reading Speeches is a lot like an EM, with a clause by clause discussion of the Bill.
How did I know this information? From an extremely helpful publication from the Commonwealth Parliamentary library, ‘Was there an EM?’: Explanatory Memoranda and Explanatory Statements in the Commonwealth Parliament
I suggest that anyone who ever may need to find an EM should read the whole thing, there is very interesting and useful information about the history and purpose of the EM. There’s also information about the EM’s cousins, the Explanatory Statement (used for Commonwealth regulations) and the Comparative Memorandum.
But if you’re only interested in knowing if a particular state or territory produced EMs during a given year, go straight to Appendix 2, towards the end of the document. One of the best things about legal research is knowing for certain that something definitely does not exist – because then you don’t need to waste time trying to find it.