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Factsheet No. 6 - Making Laws

Factsheet No. 6 - Making Laws

​​​Making new laws or amending existing laws is one of the main functions of Parliaments. This fact sheet gives an overview of the process by which bills are introduced, considered and passed in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, and briefly describes subordinate legislation and the Parliament's role in relation to it.

​Content​​

  • Diagram: The passage of legislation in the Parliament of NSW
  • Introduction
  • Preparation of bills
  • Consideration of bills in the Legislative Assembly
  • After a bill has been agreed to by the Legislative Assembly
  • Subordinate legislation

The passage of legislation in the Parliament of NSW

Flow chart of bill progress.png

Introduction

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:

  • implement Government policy;
  • remedy issues or problems with existing laws; or
  • give effect to inter-government agreements.

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.

Preparation of bills

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[1]. 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.

Bills in the Legislative Assembly

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.

The stages in which bills are considered in the Legislative Assembly are as follows:

​Notice of motion

A Minister or private Member must give notice in the House of their intention to introduce a bill.

Introduction and first reading

A Minister or private Member may introduce a bill in the Legislative Assembly. This is the first time that a bill's progress is voted on, with the House voting on whether the bill may be introduced into the House, or not. If the House agrees, the Minister or private Member makes copies of the bill available. There is no debate at this stage of a bill.

Second reading speech

After a bill has been introduced, the Minister or private Member in charge of the bill will give a speech outlining the purpose and reasons for the bill. After the speech, debate on the bill is adjourned for at least five days.  The purpose of the pause is to give Members time to examine the bill if they wish to participate in the second reading debate.

Second reading debate

Generally, the second reading debate provides Members with their main opportunity to debate or express their opinions about a bill. Second reading debates can, in some cases, extend over several sitting days. After the debate has concluded, the House votes on whether, or not, the bill is read for a second time. In effect, this means that the House is voting on whether it agrees to the bill in principle.

Consideration in Detail

As its name suggests, the Consideration in Detail stage gives the House an opportunity to consider a bill clause by clause or schedule by schedule. It is at this stage that amendments can be made to a bill. A bill is only considered in detail if a Member requests it. Any Member can propose amendments to a bill and a vote is taken on every proposed amendment.

Third reading

This is the final stage in considering a bill and it is usually a formality. If there has been no Consideration in Detail stage then the House will vote on whether, or not, the bill be read for a third time immediately after the second reading debate and vote. If a vote on the third reading of a bill is passed, this means that it has passed through all stages and has been agreed to by the Legislative Assembly.


​After a bill has been agreed to by the Legislative Assembly

Agreement by the Legislative Council

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. 

Assent by the Governor

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.

Commencement of 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.

Subordinate Legislation

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.


[1] "Cabinet" refers to the group of Ministers, including the Premier, that are the main decision making body within the Executive Government.