Introduction to EnAct

EnAct is a comprehensive intelligent legislation drafting, management solution, web-based electronic repository and delivery system that has been built to enable the Tasmanian Government (Australia) to produce, distribute and enable public access to reliable, up-to-date, searchable consolidated Tasmanian legislation (1). At the core of the EnAct system is an SGML database, which underpins every part of the EnAct system. All of the legislation stored on the Tasmanian Legislation Database is captured in SGML. The system has attracted a great deal of interest both inside Australia and in other countries.

The Tasmanian Government initiated the Legislation System Project (LSP) in early 1994 to address a number of issues associated with the production and availability of Tasmanian legislation. New technology and processes were developed for the drafting and maintenance of legislation.

The main component of this was the EnAct system, which was implemented in the Office of Parliamentary Counsel (OPC), responsible for all legislative drafting within Tasmania ( Bills, Statutory Rules, their accompanying documentation, and the final published versions of Acts and Statutory Rules) in December 1997. The Legislation Publication Act 1996 established the legislation in EnAct as the authorised version.

The functional requirements for the EnAct system were developed within the Department of Premier and Cabinet and the system design and development was outsourced to GE Capital Information Technology Solutions. As the prime contractor, they provided the systems integration and Project management services that enabled the EnAct solution to be brought together. The enabling technology was developed initially in Australia by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT). Numerous people have contributed to this project, now with SAIC Pty Ltd. Many original team members are still supporting and developing EnAct.

Main Features of EnAct

The EnAct System

Key features of the EnAct system include:
• automatic consolidation of amendment legislation on commencement;
• true ‘point-in-time’ searching of consolidated legislation (searches are carried out on the legislation
• innovative automated tools for drafting amendment legislation;
• the ability to present and display legislation in a variety of formats from the same data source;
• advanced searching and browsing capabilities with all cross-references and amendment history
information stored as electronic hyperlinks;
• quality control points built into the legislation production process;
• business process tracking for legislation drafting tasks; and
• multiple format delivery for the publication of legislation allowing paper based products, CD ROM
products and HTML publishing via the Internet.

Point in Time and Consolidation of Legislation

When exploring the EnAct database, the searches are conducted at today’s date or at a date the user specifes. This allows topics of interest to be researched through time to see how the law has changed. Therefore, users or EnAct will be able to determine the accurate state of the law at the time, for example, an offence is committed, even if the relevant legislation has been amended several times since.

Therefore, an important feature of EnAct is the automatic consolidation (creating a new version of the Stamp Duty Act 2012 when the amendment is made law)

It is this automatic consolidation feature which will provide perhaps the most significant benefits of this legislative managing solution. EnAct was the first system in the world to provide this kind of functionality.

A main feature is the ability to search and present the law at a specified point in time. For example a user can enter the site a 1st May 2013, and then the search result and all the links return the law as it was on that date. The “point-in-time” capability allows any user to search and browse the content of EnAct as it was at any time since 1 February 1997.

At the core of the system is an SGML database. All legislation in the database is broken up into a
number of fragments (ie. One fragment per Section or Schedule). Each fragment contains the dates for which that piece of legislation is in force. When legislation is amended, the system automatically builds new versions of fragments which are affected by amendments and keeps the old ones for historical reference. Consolidations are generated by joining together the fragments relevant at a particular point in time.

Creating Amendment Legislation

Another feature of EnAct is the method of creating or drafting amendment legislation, i.e. the automatic generation of amendment wording (e.g. “The Stamp Duty Act 2012 is amended by inserting after Section 25 following…”).In the past, traditional drafting techniques required the drafters to work from manually pasted-up copies of the legislation directly in conjunction with manual indexes.Drafters used to derive the effect of the amendments with the text describing them. This approach led to the possibility of legislation changes being overlooked.
In Tasmania, the new processes or approach enable amendments to be drafted by marking up directly an electronic version of a consolidated Act and provide access to electronic searching facilities to aid in the preparation of consequential amendments. Amendment is, therefore, be generated automatically.

“EnAct is a complex system for managing the complete document lifecycle of legislation.Built by RMIT University’s Multimedia Database Systems group, it combines recent research with commercial office solutions experience in government and the private sector. ….The major motivation of the project was to develop a system to produce and manage an electronic repository of legislation to track and record legislation as it changes with time, allowing access to the legislation both as it is now and also as it was at any time in the past. Both electronic and paper publication were to be sourced from this central electronic repository.”(2)

As see above, Tasmania achieved these goals by automating much of the legislative drafting and consolidation process.


“SGML(3) is an international standard that supports the representation of logical structure. It is widely used in the legal publishing field because of its suitability for legislation and complex legal commentary. Other advantages of SGML include the longevity of the data (4), vendor independent tool sets (5), the ability to validate the structure of each document against drafting standards (6), and the separation of the creation of content from the presentation of that content (7). SGML was the required encoding standard in the original Request for Tender for a legislation management system. By using SGML, Tasmania is able to automate the fragmentation of an Act, or the joining of a table of contents and set of fragments back into a single Act. This allows documents to be stored either whole or as fragments depending on retrieval requirements of the relevant legislative process stage.”(8)

“The newer Web standard, XML, which is a simplified subset of SGML, provides similar benefits although it was not available at the beginning of this Project.”(9)

Use of EnAct

“A member of the public can contact the PAT shop and request a reprint of a particular Act on a specified day. They search the repository to find the relevant table of contents and fragments at that time point, which are joined together into a single SGML document that is translated into Rich
Text Format using SIM formatters. This RTF representation is then passed to highspeed printers for paper output. Each authorized version is preceded by a certificate of authenticity from the Chief Parliamentary Counsel.

At the end of the document two tables appear. The first shows the name and the time of commencement of all amending Acts applied to that Act since it was enacted. The second lists each provision that has been amended and how it was amended. The database that is shared by the public Web gateway and the private Printing Authority gateway is not the only repository in the EnAct system. A working database is also kept in the OPC. This database contains everything in the
public repository, but also contains the politically sensitive draft Bills in preparation, and all of the workflow information about the status of Bills and other draft legislation. Data is periodically migrated from the production database to the publication database providing a level of protection from intrusion and preserving the integrity of the data on the public repository.”(10)

“All cross-references are activated as hypertext links. Because all hypertext links are activated using queries in the database, it is just as easy to do reverse hypertext links?i.e. show a list of all fragments that refer to this fragment or this Act. When history notes are displayed, those that refer to amending Acts on the system are also hypertext links to those Acts. The table of contents can be viewed either as a conventional section number and headnote or with a section number and list of links to successive versions of the corresponding fragments. This provides a quick overview of the history of a provision.”(11)


Notes and References

    1. Arnold-Moore, T., Clemes, J., and Tadd, M. (2002). Connected to the law: Tasmanian legislation using enact. Technical report, TeraText.
    2. Case Study: Managing Legislation, Ross Wilkinson
    3. International Organization for Standardization. (1986) Information processing, text and office systems, Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) ISO/IEC 8879:1986; Bosak and Bray (1999) ‘XML and the Second-Generation Web’ 280 Scientific American 89-93.
    4. ‘As an international standard, SGML ? is forced to be very stable. International standards are not changed whimsically. No single company or organization owns it and can steer it to their own advantage. Since SGML is so stable, software developers can safely build tools that employ the standard without the risk of having to constantly keep up with another company’s dictums.’ Travis and Waldt (1995) The SGML Implementation Guide: A Blueprint for SGML Migration.
    5. ‘Users benefit from tools that work in predictable ways and can use off-the-shelf tools instead of having to develop their own validation and transformation programs.’ ibid.
    6. Arnold-Moore (1998) Information Systems for Legislation Ph.D. Thesis, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.
    7. Barron (1989) ‘Why use SGML?’ 2 Electronic Publishing ? Origination, Dissemination and Design 3-24.
    8. Connected to the Law: Tasmanian Legislation Using EnAct, Timothy Arnold-Moore, Journal of Information Law and Technology, Warwick
    9. Idem 8
    10. XML format(s) for legal Sources, Estrella Deliverable 3.1, Caterina Lupo et al. (2007)
    11. Idem 8

See Also

      • EUR-Lex
      • AustLII
      • Thomas
      • Semantic Web and Law
      • Semantic Indexing and Law
      • XML Standards for Legislation
      • MetaLex
      • LegalXML
      • SDU BWB
      • Linked Data Principles to Legal Information
      • LexDania
      • NormeinRete
      • CHLexML
      • Legal RDF
      • eLaw
      • LAMS
      • JSMS
      • UKMF
      • Estrella Project
      • Legal Ontologies
      • Artificial Intelligence and Law
      • CELEX
      • Free Access to Law Movement
      • Legal Information Institute resources

Further Reading

      • Marchetti A., Megale F., Seta E., Vitali F., “Using XML as a means to access legislative documents: Italian and foreign experiences” , ACM SIGAPP Applied Computing Review, 10, n. 1, pp. 54-62 (2002)
      • Vitali F., Di Iorio A., Gubellini D., Design patterns for document substructures, Extreme Markup 2005 Conference, Montreal, 1-5 August 2005, mulberrytech.com/Extreme/Proceedings/xslfo-pdf/2005/ Vitali01/EML2005Vitali01.pdf
      • Gordon, T.F.: Constructing Legal Arguments with Rules in the Legal Knowledge Interchange Format (LKIF). Computable Models of the Law: Languages, Dialogues, Games, Ontologies pp. 162 184 (2008)
      • IFLA Study Group on the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records: Functional requirements for bibliographic records: nal report. K . G. Saur (1998)
      • Kay, M.: XSL Transformations (XSLT) Version 2.0. Recommendation, W3C (Jan 2007), https://www.w3.org/TR/2007/REC-xslt20-20070123/. Latest version available at w3.org/TR/xslt20
      • de Oliveira Lima, A., Palmirani, M., Vitali, F.: Moving in the Time: An Ontology for Identifying Legal Resources. Computable Models of the Law, Languages, Dialogues, Games, Ontologies pp. 71 85 (2008)
      • Palmirani, M., Benigni, F.: Norma-System: A Legal Information System for Managing Time. In: V Legislative XML Workshop. pp. 205 224 (2007)
      • Palmirani, M., Contissa, G., Rubino, R.: Fill the gap in the legal knowledge modelling. In: proceeding of RuleML 2009. pp. 305 314 (2009)
      • Presutti, V., Gangemi, A.: Content ontology design patterns as practical building blocks for web ontologies. In: ER2008. Barcelona, Spain. (2008)
      • Valentina Presutti et al.: A Library of Ontology Design Patterns. NeOn project deliverable D2.5.1. (2008)
      • Biagioli, C. and Francesconi, E. (2005). A semantics-based visual framework for planning a new bill. In Proceedings of the Jurix Conference: Legal Knowledge and Information Systems.
      • Jérôme Fuselier et Boris Chidlovskii, Traitements Automatiques pour la Migration de Documents Numériques vers XML, in Document Numérique, vol 9/1 -2006.
      • Ovidiu Vasutiu, David Jouve, Youssef Amghar, Jean-Marie Pinon, XML based Legal Document Drafting Information System, 20th Aniversary Annual JURIX Conference, Workshop on Legislative XML, LIRIS, 12/2007
      • Data models for version management of legislative documents, Marà­a Hallo Carrasco,
        Journal of Information Science.
      • V. R. Benjamins, P. Casanovas, J. Breuker, and A. Gangemi, editors. Law and the Semantic
        Web: Legal Ontologies, Methodologies, Legal Information Retrieval and Applications.
        Springer-Verlag, 2005.
      • C. Lupo and C. Batini. A federative approach to laws access by citizens: The Normeinrete system. In R. Traunmuller, editor, Proc. Second International Conference on Electronic
        Government, Berlin, 2003. Springer.
      • Thomas F. Gordon, Guido Governatori, and Antonino Rotolo. Rules and norms: Requirements for rule interchange languages in the legal domain. In Guido Governatori, John Hall, and Adrian Paschke, editors, Rule Representation, Interchange and Reasoning on the Web, LNCS 5858, pages 282-296. Springer, 2009.
      • Long-term preservation of legal resources, Gioele Barabucci et al.
      • Electronic Government and the Information Systems Perspective, Kim Normann Andersen, ?Enrico Francesconi, ?Ake Grünlund
      • Arnold-Moore T ,’Automatically processing amendments to legislation’ (1995) in Proceedings of the International Conference of Artificial Intelligence and Law (ICAIL’95).
      • Arnold-Moore T,.’Automatic generation of amendment legislation’ (1997) in Proceedings of the International Conference of Artificial Intelligence and Law (ICAIL’97).
      • Arnold-Moore T, Information Systems for Legislation, Ph.D. Thesis, RMIT, 1998.
      • Australian Bureau of Statistics Press Release, 29 May 1999.
      • Barron D, ‘Why use SGML?’ (1989) 2 Electronic Publishing ? Organization, Dissemination and Design 3-24.
      • Bosak J and Bray T, ‘XML and the Second-Generation Web’ (1999) 280 Scientific American 89-93 < sciam.com/1999/0599issue/0599bosak.html>.
      • Campbell C and McGurk J, ‘Revising statutes with computer support’ (1987) 8 Statute Law Review 104.
      • Corbett M, ‘Indexing and searching statutory text’ (1992) 84 Law Library Journal 759-67.
      • Greenleaf G et al, ‘Public access to law via Internet: the Australian Legal Information Institute’ (1995) 6 Journal of Law and Information Science <austlii.edu.au/austlii/libs_paper.html>.
      • Hoey M, ‘The discourse properties of the criminal statue'(1988) in Walter (ed) Computer Power and Legal Language.
      • International Organization for Standardization, Information processing ? text and office systems ? Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) ISO/IEC 9979:1986.
      • Robertson J and Merrick F, ‘Proposal for participation in the Workshop on Hypertext Systems and Version Support’ (1994) in Durand et al Proceedings of the Workshop on Versioning in Hypertext Systems, 35-38. <ftp://bush.cs.tamu.edu/echt/vers-wkshp/VWReport.A4.ps.gz>.
      • Schweighofer E, and Scheithauer D, ‘The automatic generation of hypertext links in legal documents’ (1996) in Wagner and Thoma (eds) Database and Expert Systems (DEXA’96).
      • Tapper C, ‘Computers and Legislation’ (1970) 23 Alabama Law Review 1-42.
      • Travis B and Waldt D, The SGML Implementation Guide, 1995.
      • Editorial, ‘Textual amendment’ (1990) 11 Statue Law Review iii-iv.
      • U.K.Command Paper, The Preparation of Legislation (The Renton Report). Cmnd 6053, 1975.



, ,



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *