How does a Bill become Federal Law?

What is a Bill?
A bill is the document that contains the proposal for a new law (or an amendment to an existing one). It has a "long" title and a "short" title. The short title is what the bill will commonly be known as, for example, the Human Rights Act. The long title outlines what the bill aims to achieve. An explanatory memorandum usually accompanies a bill.

What is an Explanatory Memorandum?
An explanatory memorandum explains the policy reasons behind the bill. It has no legal effect.

How does the Government and Party Machinations Impact on the Process?
The proposal for the bill may originate from Members of Parliament, Senators, parliamentary committees, party policy or community interest groups. The proposal is then put to the Cabinet or the Prime Minister, who either accepts or rejects it. These bills are known as Public Bills.

What is a Private Members Bill?
However, not all bills are introduced by the government. Any minister from any party can introduce a bill into Parliament. These bills are called Private Member Bills, and do not necessarily have the backing of the minister's party. They are given the same consideration as Public Bills.

How is it presented to Parliament?
A draft bill is prepared by the corresponding minister's office and drafted by the Office of Parliament Counsel. Notice is then given of the minister's intention to present it to Parliament.

In order to become an act, or to alter existing legislation, a bill must pass – unchanged – through both houses. It is presented in the House of Representatives through a First Reading Speech. The long title is read out and the bill is by distributed to the Parliament.

Immediately following the First Reading Speech, the minister usually moves for the bill to be read a second time. The Second Reading Speech is where the bill – its general contents and application – is explained to the rest of Parliament. This is followed by the presentation of the explanatory memorandum. The bill is then debated in the House, or alternatively, in the Main Committee, and motions are passed to alter it. This is called the Committee Stage.

When the House or Main Committee is satisfied, there will be the Third Reading Speech – where the long title is read again – before the bill is sent to be approved by the Senate.

What is the difference between the House of Representatives and the Senate?
The process in the Senate is identical to that in the House of Representatives. However, it serves a different purpose. While the House of Representatives introduces the bill, it is the Senate?s job to inspect and review the bill; effectively operating as a safeguard.

What is the role of the Governor General?
If both houses approve the bill without amendments, it sent to the Governor General. The Governor General then gives his or her assent – acting on the Crown's behalf – and the bill becomes law.

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