Legislative function

  • To make or amend laws for the ‘peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth’ (Section 51)
  • The rest of s 51 lists the areas in which parliament may legislate.
  • To make, or amend laws, a bill needs to be passes through both Houses.
  • 95% of legislation pass – e.g. the Anti-Doping Amendment Act passed within minutes.
  • 3%, like NDIS, NBN, Gonski are controversial and seen by the public

The Path of a Bill

Usually initiated by a minister in the HoR. 85% of bills originate in the HoR. The ones that originate in the Senate are usually because of Private Members’ Bills and ministers who are senators.

A bill must be gazetted: i.e. written down and made available to the public so that they can know it and form their own opinions.

First Reading – The minister gives it to the clerk

  • The title of the bill is read out
  • Time is given to the members to read the bill and form an opinion.

Second Reading – A few days after the first reading, the minister gives a short speech (20 min) outlining the bill, the reasons for it etc.

The shadow minister is given 20 min to reply. Then, speakers alternate between gov’t and opp’n as decided by the Leader of the House and the Manager of Opp’n Business. A vote then takes place on the main idea.


Committee Stage; Consideration in Detail:

  • The bill may be referred to a committee to investigate or conduct public inquiries, who are to report back their findings to the parliament
  • Members then discuss the bill in detail, going over every point and voting on amendments etc.
  • These stages are optional.


Third Reading – the members vote on the bill in its final form. If it receives a majority, it passes onto the next house.


SENATE – in the senate, it must pass all stages to become law. The stages are almost exactly the same as the HoR.


Royal Assent – After the senators approve it, it goes to the Governor-General for approval, who signs the bill. The bill is now an Act of Parliament, and legally binding.

Private Member’s Bills

Bills not supported by the government can be introduced anytime by any member. These bills are usually unsuccessful, only 15 have ever passed, partly because they are usually controversial in nature. Parties, therefore, would not introduce controversial bills in fear of a voter backlash. For example, some recent Private Members’ Bills to pass included the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1924 and the Euthanasia Laws Act 1997. Examples of recent Private Members’ bills which were dropped due to lack of support included Wilkie’s Pokie Reforms.

The latest: Andrew Wilkie passed the Evidence Amendment (Journalists Privilege) Act 2012, which was designed to protect the confidentiality of a journalists’ sources.

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