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Passage of Legislation

Passage of Legislation

According to May's Parliamentary Practice a bill is a draft of a legislative proposal and an Act of Parliament or statute is a bill which has passed through its various stages in both Houses of Parliament and received the Royal Assent.

The "passing" of a bill through both Houses means that all the procedures laid down in the Standing Orders for the introduction and first reading, second and third reading and consideration in detail stage have been complied with.

There are three categories of bills - public bills, private bills and hybrid bills.

Public Bills
A public bill is one which deals with a matter or matters of general public interest. Public bills may be introduced and guided through both Houses by both Ministers and Private Members. Ministers, or a Parliamentary Secretary acting on behalf of a Minister, introduce Government proposals. The Standing Orders do not differentiate between Members and Ministers in reference to proceedings on public bills. Parliamentary Secretaries, introducing a bill on a Minister's behalf, cannot declare a bill to be urgent despite being able to introduce legislation. Also, Messages from the Governor recommending expenditure are only available to Ministers.

Bills may be originated in either House, except that bills for appropriating any part of the public revenue, or for imposing any new rate, tax or impost, (so called "money bills") must originate in the Legislative Assembly (section 5, Constitution Act 1902).

Private Bills
A private bill deals with specific private matters which affect a private person or persons or apply to some particular locality. It is not a measure dealing with public policy and is therefore not sponsored by the Government but by a Private Member. Certain special procedures are involved in the introduction and passing of private bills. For example, they are initiated by petition and referred to a select committee for consideration and report after their introduction and first reading. This type is bill is rare in New South Wales, with the most recent example being the Tamworth Tourist Information Centre Act of 1992.

Hybrid Bills
A hybrid bill is a public bill which affects particular private interests in a manner different from the private interests of other people or bodies in the same category or class. These types of bills are not common in New South Wales.

Cognate Bills
Standing Orders 193-197 deal with the procedure for cognate bills, i.e. the simultaneous consideration of bills which are related to each other and presented as a package. Whenever a Member informs the House (in the notice of motion for their introduction) that bills are cognate or when such bills are sent from the Council, they will be dealt with together during their various stages through the House, except in the consideration in detail stage where they may be considered separately.

The Standing Orders also provide that an amendment may be moved to pass only one cognate bill; that questions can be put separately on each bill at the second and third reading stage; and that the bills must be presented to the Governor for assent as a package.

Stages in the passage of a Bill
The several stages in the passage of a bill originating in the Legislative Assembly are as follows:

Bills originating in the Legislative Assembly

(1) Notice of Motion
When the Speaker calls for Notices of Motion (for Bills) the Member rises and reads the notice of motion (which in most cases has been prepared by the Parliamentary Counsel).
    "Madam Speaker,
    I give notice of motion to introduce the ... (Short Title)".

After reading the notice of motion, the Member must hand three copies of the notice to the Clerk of the House.

The full text of the notice is printed in the Business Paper.

(2) Introduction and Second Reading
    (At the same or a subsequent sitting)
    The Speaker will call upon the notice of motion standing in the name of the Member and the Member will rise and say-

    "Madam Speaker,
    I move, That a Bill be introduced for an Act... (Long Title)".
    The Speaker puts the Question "That the Bill be now introduced"

(When agreed to)

The Member then says:

"Madam Speaker,

I bring up the Bill", and hands 3 copies to the Clerk.

This constitutes the introduction and first reading of the Bill. There is no debate at this formal stage.

The Standing Orders provide that the bill is automatically printed with its explanatory note after the motion for the introduction is agreed to - the bill is then generally available to Members and others.

The Member may proceed with their second reading speech forthwith after moving the following motion:

"Madam Speaker,

I move, That this Bill be now read a second time".

Alternatively, the Member may ask the Speaker to set down the second reading speech as an Order of the Day for (a future time).

The motion for the second reading provides the vehicle for the main wide-ranging debate on the principles of the bill.

After the Member's speech, another Member (usually the first speaker on the opposing side) then moves a motion to adjourn the debate.

When this is agreed to, the Member will say:

"Madam Speaker,
      I ask that you fix the resumption of this debate as an Order of the Day for a future day".

Under the Standing Orders the debate cannot resume until at least five clear days ahead. However, if a bill is declared urgent (see below) or Standing Orders are suspended (see fact sheet 17) the debate may continue without this period having elapsed.

(3) Bill declared urgent

Provided that copies of the bill have been made available to Members, the Member in charge of the bill may seek to deal with the bill as an urgent bill.

When called upon to make the second reading speech, the Member will say:

"Madam Speaker,

I declare this Bill to be an urgent Bill".

The Speaker puts the question "That the bill be considered an urgent bill" and, if agreed to - no debate or amendment permitted - the Member moves that the bill be now read a second time.

The second reading debate and other stages may be proceeded with forthwith or at any time during that sitting or any other future sitting of the House.

In recent years the device of declaring bills to be urgent has not been used, rather, Standing Orders have been suspended to allow the consideration of a bill through all or a number of stages.

(4) Resumption of adjourned second reading debate

(After five clear days)

The Speaker calls upon the Clerk to read the Order of the Day for the resumption of the debate.

The Member who secured the adjournment of the debate has the right to take up the debate first subject to the right of pre-audience of the Member in charge of the bill.

As previously mentioned, the second reading is the stage at which the general principles of the bill are considered.

Amendments may be moved to the question for a bill to be read a second time - such amendments are normally directed at delaying the progress of the bill in order for the House to obtain further information (for example, by referring the bill to a committee for consideration and report) or to simply put off the question on the second reading until a later time. An amendment may also be moved which defeats the bill - that "this bill be disposed of".

At the conclusion of the debate, the Member who moved the motion for the second reading has a right of reply. The Speaker then puts the Question that the bill be now read a second time.

If the question is agreed to the Speaker shall call on the member with carriage of the bill to move the third reading forthwith unless a Member requests consideration of the bill in detail; or the Member in charge of the bill moves for consideration of the bill in detail pro forma or requests the Speaker to set down consideration of the bill in detail as an order of the day for a later time." (SO 203 as amended by sessional order).

(5) Consideration in Detail Stage

After a bill has been read a second time, a Member may request that a bill be considered in detail; or the Member in charge of the bill may move a motion for the consideration in detail pro forma or request the Speaker to set down consideration of the bill in detail as an order of the day for a later time.

When a bill is considered in detail an opportunity is provided for Members to move amendments to the bill, as the bill is dealt with clause by clause and schedule by schedule (or in groups of clauses and schedules by leave). It also may allow for a question and answer session in respect of the specifics of the legislation, as Members may speak more than once.

During the consideration in detail stage debate may be adjourned and the resumption of the proceedings on the bill will be set down as an order of the day for a later time. When the bill is next considered by the House it will resume at the point where the proceedings were adjourned. Once the proceedings in consideration in detail have been completed a motion can be moved forthwith "That this bill be now read a third time." The only amendment that may be moved to this motion is for the House to reconsider the bill (either in whole or in part).

If a bill has been amended it may be reprinted (the "Second Print" version incorporates amendments) before the bill is passed and forwarded to the Legislative Council for concurrence. To allow for reprinting, the Member will say:
        "Madam Speaker

        I ask that you fix the motion, That the bill be now read a third time, as an order of the day (for a future time)".

(6) Third Reading

If a bill has not been considered in detail, the Speaker will call the member with carriage of the bill, to move a motion "That this bill be now read a third time":
        "Madam Speaker

        I move, That this bill be now read a third time".
The motion for the bill to be read a third time is usually a formal proceeding but it can be debated and the mover has a right of reply. If agreed to, the bill has passed all stages in the Legislative Assembly. If the bill has not been considered in detail, there is no provision in the standing orders for an amendment to be moved to this motion.

The bill (with certification from the Clerk) is then forwarded to the Legislative Council with a message.

Bill sent from the Legislative Council

The Speaker reports the receipt of the bill by reading the Message from the Legislative Council.

The bill is automatically introduced - no motion is proposed.

The Member who is in charge of the bill then moves the motion "That the bill be now read a second time" and gives the second reading speech or asks the Speaker to set down the second reading speech as an Order of the Day (for a future time).

After the mover's speech the debate may be adjourned until a later time or can be proceeded with forthwith. The bill is dealt with in the same manner as an Assembly bill.

If the bill is a private member's public bill or a private bill it cannot be reported until the Speaker is advised which Member of the Assembly will have carriage of the bill. The second reading speech is set down as a general business order of the day for bills and is placed on the Business Paper in its relative order. When the bill is called on the Member in charge of the bill will give their second reading speech and in accordance with SO 229(5) debate on the bill can either be adjourned or continued forthwith.

All stages during one sitting by suspension of Standing Orders

Standing and sessional orders may be suspended to allow for a bill to be passed through all stages in one sitting. If a Minister is in charge of the bill the Minister does not have to seek leave to suspend standing and sessional orders. However, private members require the leave of the House to move a motion to suspend standing orders.

The Member moves:

"Madam Speaker,
          I move, That Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended to allow the (SHORT TITLE OF BILL) to be brought in and passed through all stages in one sitting".

The above motion may also provide that the consideration of the bill take precedence over all or some other business set down for that day.


After the Bill has passed both Houses of Parliament, the originating House will arrange for the bill to be prepared for the Assent.

A copy of the bill (including any amendments) is sent to the Parliamentary Counsel's Office for the preparation of a "vellum" copy, which is signed by the Clerk of the originating House and countersigned by the Assistant Speaker and sent to the Governor for signature.

At the same time that the vellum is sent to the Governor, paper copies are sent to the Attorney General who will sign an "opinion" letter on the constitutional legality of the bill.

When this opinion is received, the Governor will sign the vellum and an Assent message is sent to the Parliament and the Minister.

The signed vellum is returned to the originating House and an Act number is allocated in the order of assent.

The Assent details, including the Act number are published in the Government Gazette and the vellum is sent to the Registrar General for enrolment as a deed.

Commencement of Acts

The commencement date of Acts, under the provisions of the Interpretation Act 1987, is 28 days after the date of assent, except where the Act itself provides for its commencement (whether by proclamation at some future time or by nomination of a specific date such as the date of assent or otherwise).

First Published: July, 1991
Updated: April, 2012