Departments, government agencies and statutory offices are regulated by Acts of Parliament and subordinate legislation - including regulations and rules. Current Acts of Parliament and subordinate legislation are published on the NSW Legislation website which is managed by the NSW Parliamentary Counsel’s Office. 

As a senior executive you will need a strong understanding of the state’s legislative framework, particularly the primary legislation that governs your agency’s core business. You will also need to be familiar with more general legislation that applies to government.

In addition to interpreting and applying legislation, you may be involved in creating new legislation, which includes developing policy and drafting advice and assisting the parliamentary process.

Making the law – the parliamentary process

The power to make laws is shared between the Commonwealth Parliament and each state parliament.  There are four main sources of law in NSW: the Australian Constitution, federal legislation, NSW legislation and common law. Common law is developed by judges when they decide cases and refer to previous decisions for guidance on how the law should be applied.

The law-making process in NSW  is similar to that in most other Australian states, the Australian Federal Parliament, and the British Parliament, upon which our system of government is based. This process involves:

  1. developing policy
  2. drafting a Bill
  3. the parliamentary process
  4. royal assent
  5. commencement.

The NSW Parliament provides detailed information on the legislative process. A summary is outlined in the following diagram:

A diagram of how state laws are made

Relevant legislation

The Governor allocates to ministers the administration of legislation and other portfolio duties under the Constitution Act 1902. This usually occurs after each election or any large-scale Cabinet portfolio changes. The Allocation of the Administration of Acts specifies the minister currently responsible for each piece of legislation.

Each Department administers many Acts of Parliament and subordinate legislation on behalf of the relevant minister.

Some legislation applies broadly across the government sector informing  everyday decisions and obligations in relation to employment, finance, reporting and integrity. Examples include:

Government Sector Employment Act 2013
Government Sector Employment Regulation 2014
Government Sector Employment (General) Rules 2014
Government Sector Employment (Health Service Senior Executives) Rules 2016
Government Sector Employment (NSW Police Force) Rules 2017
Government Sector Employment (Transport Service Senior Executives) Rules 2017

Financial management and reporting obligations
Government Sector Finance Act 2018
Annual Reports (Departments) Act 1985
Annual Reports (Statutory Bodies) Act 1984
Annual Reports Departments) Regulation 2015
Annual Reports (Statutory Bodies) Regulation 2015

Information access, record-keeping and privacy obligations
State Records Act 1998
Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009
Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998

Integrity and oversight
Ombudsman Act 1974
Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988

Interpreting and applying legislation

Entities created by legislation have specific functions and responsibilities conferred by that statute.

You will need to interpret and apply the relevant provisions of the statute when executing those functions. The first step in understanding the statutory provision is to consider the ordinary and grammatical meaning of the words factoring in their context and the purpose of the legislation.

It is important to read any Act as a whole, then interpret it in a way that gives effect to its overall purpose or intent. Any Act must be read alongside any subsidiary legislation (regulations and/or rules) operating under it, but you cannot use this subsidiary legislation to determine your interpretation of the Act.

The NSW Parliamentary Counsel's Office has developed a Guide to interpreting NSW legislation. You should seek legal advice if you are at all uncertain about what an Act means. Your Department or agency legal team should be able to help, or you can contact an external lawyer, including the Crown Solicitor. For more information about legislation, see Further information - NSW Legislation.