As its name suggests, Government Business is business that is sponsored by Government Ministers. Government Business usually consists of bills and motions and it generally takes up the majority of the House's time during a typical sitting week. The bulk of Government Business is considered when the House is sitting on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, with Thursdays being mostly set aside for General Business (see below).
General Business, or Private Members' Business, is business that is sponsored by private Members, that is, Members of the Legislative Assembly who are not Ministers or the Speaker. Like Government Business, General Business consists of bills and motions, and is considered on Thursday mornings and afternoons.
A large portion of a typical sitting week is taken up considering bills that have been introduced by Ministers or private Members.
A bill is a draft legislative proposal that is presented to the Parliament. In a bicameral Parliament, such as the Parliament of NSW, a bill must be passed (agreed to) by both Houses in the same form, and be assented to by the Governor for it to become an Act or law.
Bills may be introduced in either the Legislative Assembly or the Legislative Council. The exceptions to this general rule are bills that appropriate money or impose taxes, which must be initiated in the Legislative Assembly. This is specified by section 5 of the Constitution Act 1902.
A bill has to pass through a number of stages before it is passed by the Houses. In the Legislative Assembly these are:
Immediately after introducing a bill in the House the Minister or Member with carriage of the bill will generally make a speech outlining the bill's background, its' intended purpose and other related matters. This is called a Second Reading Speech.
Members have the opportunity to debate the principles of a bill during the Second Reading stage. Members can also propose and debate amendments to bills during the Consideration in Detail stage which is a detailed consideration of clauses and schedules, which can be requested by any Member.
The House has to vote at each stage of a bill's passage, with a vote on the Third Reading being the final vote before a bill is agreed to by a House. The one stage of a bill's passage that may not necessarily be considered and voted on in is the Consideration in Detail stage, as this stage is only required when requested by a Member.
During a typical sitting week in the Legislative Assembly Government bills are considered during the time set aside for Government Business, most of which takes place on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Private Members' bills, on the other hand, are considered for up to 80 minutes on Thursday mornings.
For more information about the passage of legislation, see Factsheet No. 6 – Making laws.
A General Business motion is a formal proposal for action or an expression of opinion put forward by a private Member for consideration, debate and decision. General Business motions are considered in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday afternoons.
Question Time is an opportunity for Members to ask questions of Ministers and committee Chairs without prior notice. It is a very public means by which the House scrutinises the administration of the Government.
During Question Time Members may ask questions to Ministers about public affairs, matters under the Minister's administration and House proceedings for which the Minister responsibility. In the Legislative Assembly Members can also ask questions of Chairs of committees about the activities of their committees.
Question Time occurs at 2.15 pm each sitting day, and its duration is 45 minutes or the answering of 10 questions, whichever takes longer.
The Leader of the Opposition is entitled to ask the first question and then any Member may seek the call to ask a question. The current practice is for questions to be asked alternatively between Government and non-Government Members, with 'crossbench' (Independent and Greens) Members being part of the non-Government rotation.
An answer to a question must not exceed five minutes, though Members may ask Ministers to provide additional information for a further two minutes, and there are rules which specify the things that questions should not contain (e.g. argument, inference, imputation etc.).
The Public Interest Debate occurs on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 5pm. The Government nominates the debate topic on Tuesdays and the Opposition and Cross bench nominate topics on Wednesdays – two consecutively for the Opposition and then a Cross bench nomination.
A debate topic is nominated to the Speaker before noon of the sitting day on which it will be debated, and the topic is announced by the Speaker in the House prior to Question Time.
The Member moving the motion has seven minutes to speak and a three minute reply and there is provision for up to six other Members to speak for five minutes. The motion is voted on at the conclusion of the debate.
Private Members' Statements
Time is provided each sitting day for Members to make five minute statements, called Private Members' Statements, on matters that concern their electorates or are of local significance. Members may also address issues other than local ones, provided that they directly affect constituents.
Private Members' Statements are scheduled to be made on Tuesday afternoons and evenings, Wednesday evenings and Thursday afternoons. Up to 47 Private Members' Statements may be made over any one sitting week.
Members may make one minute statements on Wednesday afternoons, for a total of 20 minutes, and Thursday afternoons, for a total of 30 minutes, acknowledging constituents and recognising the achievements of people or groups in their electorates.
Members may debate the subject matter of any petition received by the House signed by 10,000 or more persons at 4.00 pm on Thursdays.
Debates on 10,000 signature petitions take place in the order in which they are received by the House.
The first speaker (generally the Member that presents the petition) and another four Members may speak, with the first speaker getting a reply before the question to 'take note' of the petition is put. A minister is required to provide a response as part of the debate. The petition debate lasts for approximately 30 minutes.
On Wednesdays Members may speak on a debate, called a 'take note' debate, on parliamentary committee reports that have been tabled during the current session of Parliament. The Member tabling the report (generally the committee Chair) is given six minutes to speak and any other Member may speak for up to four minutes for a total time of up to 22 minutes. At the conclusion of the debate the House votes on the motion to take note of the report.
A total of 30 minutes is allocated for 'take note' debates each Wednesday and committee reports are debated in the order that they are tabled in the House.
See the Interactive Sitting Day Schedule which walks you through all the elements of the sitting day.