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PARLIAMENTARY BILLS

Under a bicameral system, bills (or proposed laws) pass through several stages in both of the Houses of Parliament, before being sent to the Governor for assent. Bills that have received assent are known as Acts.

Bills can be introduced into either House of Parliament, with the exception of money bills which must originate in the Legislative Assembly. Bills introduced by ministers are considered during the time allocated for government business. Bills introduced by private members are considered during the time allocated for general business.

Types of bills

Public bills – The most common type of bills introduced into the Parliament of NSW are ‘public bills’, which deal with matters of general public interest. There are two types of public bills: Government public bills and private members’ public bills.

Private bills – A member may also introduce a ‘private bill’ which deals only with specific private matters which affect a private person or body. This type is bill is rare in NSW, with the most recent example being the Tamworth Tourist Information Centre Act of 1992.

Cognate bills are bills which are related to each other in terms of subject matter and are presented to the Parliament as a package for simultaneous consideration.

Money bills are public bills which set a tax or propose the spending of money for a particular purpose. Money bills can only be introduced in the Legislative Assembly but after they have been introduced they follow the same passage through both Houses as other bills.

Initiating a bill

Private members can initiate a bill in response to pressure from their constituents, community groups, the media or public opinion. A draft bill is prepared by Parliamentary Counsel, acting under instructions from the private member.

The parliamentary process

Notice of motion – Before a bill is introduced into either House a minister or private member must give notice of his or her intention to introduce the bill.

Introduction and First Reading – At a subsequent sitting, unless standing orders are suspended, the Chair will call on the item of business and the minister/member will then move a motion to introduce the bill. In the Legislative Council the Clerk will read the short title of the bill after it has been introduced and this is referred to as the First Reading. The minister/member will then proceed with his or her second reading speech.

After the second reading speech, unless Standing Orders have been suspended to allow urgent consideration of the bill, debate is then adjourned for five clear/calendar days.

Second Reading Debate – During the second reading debate, members express their opinions about the principles of the bill. At the conclusion of the debate, a vote is taken on the question “that this bill be now read a second time” .

If the House disagrees, then the bill is defeated.

If the House agrees, and there are no amendments proposed to the bill, the bill moves directly to the third reading stage. If there are amendments proposed to the bill, the bill proceeds to either the committee stage (LC).

Committee of the Whole (Legislative Council) – If a member wishes to amend a bill, the House will form itself into a “committee of the whole” to deal with the bill in detail. During this stage the Presiding Officer leaves the Chair. In the LC, this role is performed by the Chair of Committees.

Third Reading – Once the bill has passed through the second reading, and where necessary the consideration in detail/committee of the whole stages, a question will be moved “that this bill be now read a third time” If agreed to, the bill has passed all stages and the bill is sent, with a message, to the other House for consideration.

Consideration by the other House – The Presiding Officer or Chair advises the House that a message has been received seeking concurrence with a bill. The bill then proceeds through all remaining stages in the second House before being returned to the House of origin, either with the second House’s agreement or with amendments for consideration by the House of origin..

Assent – Once a bill has passed both Houses, it is forwarded to the Governor for assent. The Governor receives an opinion from the Attorney-General as to the constitutionality of the bill. Once satisfied, the bill receives final approval at a meeting of the Executive Council and is signed by the Governor into law.

Commencement

An Act comes into force 28 days after it is assented to, or on a day or days to be appointed by proclamation. A clause, stating whether the Act comes into force by assent or proclamation, usually appears at the beginning of each bill.