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The Passage of Legislation

The Passage of Legislation

The main steps in the process of making a law are:

Developing a Policy

Any Member of Parliament may initiate a Bill, but actually most are introduced by Ministers of the Government. Most Acts begin as decisions of the political party in Government, and policy may come about after pressure from community groups, the media or public opinion pointing out particular needs, advice from Government Depart­ments, or even because of court decisions. When the Government is satisfied that laws are needed, the Minister concerned submits the proposal to the Cabinet for approval. Where a Bill is introduced by individual Members of Parliament, be they Government, Opposition or Independent Members, the Bill is known as a Private Members Bill. In practice such Bills have much less chance of getting majority support and thus becoming law.

Drafting the Bill

The difficult task of turning an idea or a policy into the precise language of a law is the work of expert law­yers in the office of the Parliamentary Counsel.

The Parliamentary Process

There are several steps in the passage of legislation:
    • 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. The full text of the notice, including the long title of the bill, is published in the Legislative Assembly Business Paper or the Legislative Council Notice Paper for the next sitting day.
    • 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. The introduction is a formal stage at which the minister/member introducing the bill reads the long title of the bill.
      In the Legislative Assembly the bill is taken to have been read a first time after it has been introduced and the minister/member then makes a speech outlining the principles of the bill (the second reading speech).
      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 consideration in detail stage (LA) or committee stage (LC).
      Consideration in detail (Legislative Assembly) Committee of the Whole (Legislative Council)
      If a member wishes to amend a bill, the House will consider the bill in detail (LA) or form itself into a "committee of the whole" to deal with the bill in detail (LC). During this stage the Presiding Officer leaves the Chair. In the Legislative Assembly the Speaker takes a seat next to the Clerks at the Table to preside over consideration of the bill in detail. In the Legislative Council, 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. (This replaces the notice of motion stage in the House of origin.) 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.
    • Consideration of amendments by the House of origin
      Bills that have been returned to the House of origin with amendments from the second House are considered in the consideration in detail stage (Legislative Assembly) or Committee of the Whole (Legislative Council). If the amendments are agreed to in the House of origin, the bill is sent to the Governor for assent. If, however, the amendments are not agreed to, both Houses exchange messages until agreement is reached or the bill is set aside. Where agreement cannot be reached, and the House of origin does not wish to lay the bill aside, a conference and joint sitting of both Houses can be held to discuss the bill. If necessary, the Legislative Assembly can then submit the bill to the people of NSW by referendum, under section 5B of the Constitution Act 1902. Under section 5A of the Constitution Act 1902, the Legislative Assembly may direct that any bill appropriating revenue for the ordinary annual services of the Government may be presented to the Governor for assent where that bill has been rejected, not passed or amended by the Legislative Council without the agreement of the Legislative Assembly.


This is the final stage in the process by which a Bill becomes an Act. Once a bill has passed both Houses (except for the exceptional circumstances under sections 5A and 5B outlined above), 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.


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.The bill is then allocated a number by the Parliament and the original signed copy is sent to the Registrar-General for safe keeping as an historical record of the State of NSW. When an Act or clauses of an Act come into force by proclamation, this date is determined by the minister who, on behalf of the Governor, places an announcement in the Government Gazette shortly before the date of commencement. It should be noted that not all clauses of an Act will come into force at the same time. The Government is required to lodge notification with the Parliament of all legislation remaining unproclaimed after 90 days.