The Legislative Process – a Bill+-
One of the functions of Parliament is to make laws. To make a law Parliament enacts legislation, also known as statutes or acts of Parliament.
An act of Parliament starts as a bill in one of the houses. A bill is the draft of a proposed law. Most bills deal with the management of public affairs and the implementation of government policy, and are introduced by a minister, but a member of either house is entitled to introduce a private member's bill.
Stages of a Bill
To become an act, a bill must pass through a number of formal stages. These are —
The Introduction and First Reading
A minister or member of either house may introduce a bill. A copy of the bill is provided along with an explanatory memorandum, which explains the bill usually clause-by-clause. Immediately after introduction, the bill is "read" a first time; that is, the Clerk reads the title of the bill. The introduction of the bill is usually agreed to without debate.
The Second Reading
On completion of the first reading stage, the minister/member in charge of the bill starts the second reading debate with a speech that explains the intended effect of the proposed legislation. After the second reading speech, debate on the bill is usually adjourned to provide time for members to study the effect of the bill. Members may use this time to inform their deliberations by consulting with relevant persons, community groups or government departments and ministerial staff.
When debate resumes, all members are entitled to make one speech with the member/minister in charge of the bill having a right of reply in which the various arguments raised in debate are answered.
The second reading is the most important stage through which a bill passes because the whole principle or policy of the bill is at issue. At the end of the second reading, the main vote on the bill is taken.
After the Second Reading Stage
Once the bill passes the second reading stage, there are a number of options available to the Houses —
- proceed straight to the third reading stage (see information below);
- progress to Committee of the Whole / consideration in detail; or
- refer the bill to a committee for examination.
Consideration in Detail/Committee of the Whole House
When members wish to discuss specific details of a bill on a clause-by-clause basis, the house will move to the Committee of the Whole House stage (Legislative Council) or consideration in detail (Legislative Assembly).
In the Legislative Council, the house forms itself into a “committee” presided over by the Chair of Committees (Deputy President) who sits at the Clerk’s table. During consideration in detail in the Legislative Assembly, proceedings continue to be presided over by the Speaker or an Acting Speaker.
During this stage, the minister/member in charge of the bill will come to the table of the house and is often joined by one or more advisers. The bill is considered on a clause- by-clause basis, with members asking specific questions on the impact of certain clauses and potentially moving new amendments to these clauses (and inserting new clauses). This is to ensure that when the bill becomes an act, it will carry out Parliament’s intention.
Referral to Other Committees
In both the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly, a bill may be referred to a committee for its consideration and report to the Committee of the Whole House or house, respectively. The Legislative Council frequently uses committees as part of its review function.
The Third Reading
Once the relevant house has dealt with the bill in Committee of the Whole House/consideration in detail, the next stage is the third reading. Although this stage is mainly formal, all members have an opportunity to speak to the bill before it passes the house.
It is possible to bypass the Committee of the Whole House/consideration in detail stage and proceed to the third reading when all members of a house agree with the bill.
Presentation to the Other House
Following the third reading, the bill is sent to the other house where, following receipt by message (a formal means of communication between the houses), the same procedure takes place.
Assent by the Governor
Having passed through both houses, the bill is presented to the Governor, who assents to it in the name, and on behalf, of the Monarch. On assent, the bill becomes an act of Parliament.
Some acts of Parliament specify that they, or portions of them, do not come into operation until they are proclaimed by order of the Governor (on the advice of the Executive Council). A notice of proclamation must be published in the Western Australian Government Gazette.
Disagreements between the Houses
If the two houses cannot agree on amendments made to a bill, each may appoint a number of members to meet and try to settle the differences. This procedure is known as a conference of managers. If the conference of managers fails to reach agreement, the bill fails.
Financial Money Bills+-
Under section 46 of the Constitution Acts Amendment Act 1899, bills that appropriate public money or impose taxation must originate in the Legislative Assembly. The Legislative Council is restricted in its capacity to amend appropriation or taxation bills. This is to ensure that the initiation and management of public expenditure remains in the hands of the government, which is formed from the party or coalition of parties having a majority in the Legislative Assembly. Although these classes of bills, often referred to colloquially as “money bills”, must originate in the Legislative Assembly, the Legislative Council may veto any bill and may amend certain types of money bills, for example, those that appropriate money for capital expenditure, e.g. infrastructure projects. In cases in which the Legislative Council is prohibited from amending a bill, it may make a request to the Legislative Assembly that it make an amendment suggested by the Legislative Council.
The question of whether a bill is one “appropriating revenue or moneys” under section 46 affects the capacity of the Legislative Council to initiate or amend a bill. This is because section 46 requires that such bills originate in the Legislative Assembly and prevents the Council from amending appropriation bills for ordinary government services. These restrictions on the Legislative Council are intended to preserve the financial initiative of the Legislative Assembly, the house of the Parliament where government is formed.