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Commonwealth Legislative Drafting Manual

image of Commonwealth Legislative Drafting Manual

In 1976, recognising that there was a shortage of trained legislative drafters in the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth Secretariat first published a legislative drafting manual aimed at informing those practitioners with little or no previous experience in the skill, and assisting those with some experience who had never considered why drafting needed to be undertaken in a particular way.

That aim remains, but more than 40 years later there have been important changes in the way legislation is drafted. These mainly concern the perceived need to make it more accessible to those to be affected by it, in particular by the use of plain language and sentence structures that relate more closely to those used in formal non-legislative documents.

In the light of these and other changes, the Commonwealth Legislative Drafting Manual has been completely rewritten, and it now guides the practitioner step by step through the various things he or she needs to know. It also contains a series of appendices relating to the procedure for the preparation of legislation, the contents of drafting instructions, and some hints to the beginner on the best approaches to the task.

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The Role of Legislative Counsel

Although legislative counsel may have been consulted, or even involved, at the policy-making stage, the formal starting point in the process of translating policy into legislation should be the reception of drafting instructions. Counsel should, in obtaining the necessary depth of understanding of the policy, be prepared to ask searching questions. He or she is, however, under a professional duty to look critically at the instructions and to point out where there seem to be aspects of the policy that might be in conflict with the Constitution or other legislation, or where aspects of the proposed legislation might for some reason be difficult to operate or enforce.

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