A bill is a draft proposal to introduce a new law or amend an existing law that is presented to a House of Parliament. In a bicameral Parliament, such as the Parliament of NSW, a bill must pass through both Houses in the same form and then be assented to (or agreed to) by the Governor for it to become a law (or an Act).
Bills may be introduced to:
In NSW bills may be introduced in either the Legislative Assembly or the Legislative Council. The exception to this general rule is bills that appropriate money or impose taxes, which must be initiated in the Legislative Assembly.
Most bills are introduced into Parliament by Ministers and are prepared as part of the Government's legislative program. These types of bills are called Government bills.
The content of Government bills are determined by Government Departments at the direction of Cabinet. ['Cabinet' refers to the group of Ministers, including the Premier, that are the main decision making body within the Executive Government.]
The text of these bills is drafted by the Parliamentary Counsel's Office, which also prints all Government bills.
Private Members, that is, Members who aren't Ministers, may also introduce bills into the Parliament. The Parliamentary Counsel's Office also assists with drafting private Members' bills.
In the Legislative Assembly bills have to pass through a number of stages. During these various stages, proposals (motions) are made about the bill's progress or content, speeches given to argue for and against proposals (debate), and the proposals are ultimately voted on by the House.
Notice of motion
Introduction and first reading
After a bill has been agreed to by the Legislative Assembly, the bill is sent to the Legislative Council with a message asking that it also agree to the bill. If the Legislative Council passes amendments to the bill then it is returned to the Legislative Assembly for the Assembly to consider the Legislative Council's amendments. Messages will pass between the two Houses until both agree on a version of the bill. If the Houses cannot agree on the terms of the bill there are mechanisms to try and resolve the deadlock. If these fail, then a referendum may ultimately be used, although this is an unlikely outcome and has rarely been used.
After a bill has passed both Houses of Parliament, the House in which the bill was introduced will arrange for the bill to be prepared for assent by the Governor. Once the Governor has signed the bill, which indicates that he/she has assented to it, that bill becomes an Act.
Nearly every Act indicates the date on which the whole Act or parts of the Act will come into force. An Act may come into force in a number of ways, including on the day of assent, or on a day or days proclaimed by the Governor on the advice of the Executive Council.
As well as Acts, laws are also made by subordinate legislation, also known as 'statutory rules'. Statutory rules are laws made under the authority of an Act of Parliament, not required to be passed by the Parliament. These include regulations, by-laws, ordinances and rules of a court.
All statutory rules must be tabled in both Houses within 14 sitting days after being published on the NSW Legislation Website. Either House may disallow a statutory rule, by way of a motion passed by a House, so long as the notice of motion is given within 15 sitting days after the rule has been tabled. If a "disallowance" motion is agreed to, the rule is revoked.