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Australian Parliamentary Terms


Australian Parliamentary Terms




Act of Parliament:
A bill which has passed all three readings in each house of Parliament, received Royal assent and become law.

Adjournment Debate:
A debate held at the end of each sitting day in parliament named because it takes place on the motion to adjourn the house each day.

An alteration to a Bill or Act.

Appropriation Bill:
A Bill which, when passed by the Parliament, will allow the Government to spend money.



A Member of Parliament who is not a Minister or Special Office Holder. These Members sit behind the Ministers.

Balance of Power:
Where no party holds a majority another person or group may have enough votes to decide the issue and thus 'hold the balance of power'.

It should be always remembered that a single person can NOT decide any issue alone.

A minimum of fifty percent plus one of the House is required to resolve any issue.

The process by which people vote.

A Parliament which has two houses, a Lower house and an Upper House

A proposed law as it passes through Parliament.

After it receives Royal Assent it becomes law.

With the support of two parties.

Usually an action with the support of the Government and the Opposition.

Black Rod:
The symbol of authority of the Usher of the Black Rod.

The term may be used for the Usher as well as the ebony rod itself.

A Government's annual plan outlining revenue and expenditure measures.

An election held between General Elections to fill a seat left vacant by a member's early departure.

A rule or regulation.



The Ministers, who are senior Members of the Governing Party.

The period prior to an election when Candidates seek voter support.

A person, duly registered, standing for election to Parliament.

A full meeting of the Parliamentary representatives of any party.

A motion reprimanding or disapproving of a Government, a Minister or a Member.

The room in which a particular house of Parliament meets.

Clerk of the Legislative Assembly:
The senior permanent officer in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly responsible for ensuring that correct procedure is followed and administration and records are properly kept.

Clerk of the Parliaments:
The senior permanent officer in the New South Wales Legislative Council, responsible for ensuring that correct procedure is followed and administration and records are properly kept.

The combination of two or more political parties in Parliament.

A group of Members of Parliament appointed by one or both Houses to consider matters referred to it.

It's findings are reported to the House/s.

Committee Stage (Committee of the Whole):
The stage during the Parliament's consideration of a Bill (after the second reading) when it is examined clause by clause and amendments are considered.

The Committee is the whole House operating under different rules and presided over by the Chairman of Committees.

Common Law:
Law that originated in English Courts and continues to develop over time in places which derived their legal system from England.

'Common' here means 'applying to everyone'. It can be altered by Statute Law as well as decisions by the Courts. The Court interpretation of new Statute Law also becomes a part of Common Law.

The Electorate or area, or the people in it, which a Member of Parliament represents.

The people in a constituency.

The Laws that define the Powers and Responsibilities of Governments.

Contempt of Parliament:
Behaviour which offends against the rules of a House of Parliament.

Cross Bench:
The seats in a House occupied by Members who are neither part of the Government nor of the Main Opposition.

They may be Independents or Members of Minor Parties.

The formal term for the Sovereign (The Queen).

Used as a legal term to describe the property and authority of Government in Australia.



The formal presentation of various viewpoints on matters before the House.

The bringing to an end, by the Governor, of a Parliament making a new election necessary.

A vote in a House of Parliament in which a record of names of Members and how they voted is kept.

Draft Bill:
An early version of a proposed Bill before it is introduced into Parliament.



Electoral Roll:
The list of people eligible to vote in a General Election.

The geographic area represented by a Member of Parliament.

Enact, enactment:
The point at which a Bill comes into force as an Act of Parliament.

Giving an individual or class of people the right to vote in Elections.

Executive Council:
The Governor and Cabinet Ministers who meet to give legal form to certain cabinet decisions.

Executive, Executive Government:
The Cabinet and the Government Departments and agencies for which they are responsible and which carry out the day-to-day functions of Government.



The creation of the Nation of Australia from the six colonies in 1901.

A simplistic voting method in which the candidate with the most votes is declared elected.

The system ignores the general consensus of the electorate

First Reading:
The first stage in the progress of a Bill through a House of Parliament.

The Bill is presented and the Clerk reads aloud the Short Title.

First Preference:
By placing a 1 on a ballot paper in a box beside a candidates name indicates that the candidate is the voter's first choice or preference.

The right to vote.

Front Bench:
Refers to the Ministers and Shadow Ministers who traditionally sit on the front benches in each House.



General Election:
An election in which, in New South Wales, all Legislative Assembly seats and half of the Legislative Council seats and in the Australian Parliament all of the House of Representative and half of the Senate seats, are declared vacant and contested.

In Parliament this is the Party or coalition of Parties with majority support in the Lower House and therefore able to Govern.

The term Government is more accurately used to describe Executive Government.

Government Bill:
A Bill introduced by a minister on behalf of the Government.

The formal Head of State of a State. The Queen's representative.

Governor General:
The formal Head of State of Australia. The Queen's representative,

See Executive Council.



The written record of Parliamentary debates. The name of the Parliamentary Department which produces this record.

T. C. Hansard was given the authority to publish summaries of debates in the British House of Commons in 1803.

House of Commons:
The Lower House of the British Parliament.

House of Lords:
The Upper House of the British Parliament.

House of Representatives:
The Lower House of the Federal Parliament of Australia.

House of Review:
A term applied to Upper Houses responsible for reviewing and providing a second opinion on Bills passed by the Lower House.

Sadly this review responsibility is weakened by the House's ability to also initiate a Bill.



A Member of Parliament who is not a member of a Political Party.

Informal Vote:
A vote that is not counted because the Ballot Paper has not been completed according to the rules.

It should be noted that, if the intention of the voter is clear, the Electoral Office can accept such a paper.

An example of this is the Referendum on the damming of the Franklin.

Many Tasmanian voters ignored the two questions put and marked their ballot 'No Dams'.

So great was this Civil Disobedience that those votes were eventually counted.

If there are two Candidates or Questions on a Ballot Paper where you are required to mark 1 and 2 and you simply mark 1 or yes your intention is clear and that paper should be included.



The Judges and the Court System.



The system of rules providing a basis for society to function harmoniously and efficiently.

Leader of the Government:
In the States, the Premier, The Federal Government, the Prime Minister and the Territories, the Chief Minister.

Leader of the House:
A person appointed from the Government party or parties to organise and arrange the proceedings of the House.

Leader of the Opposition:
A Member elected by the Opposition to lead them and to Shadow the Premier, Prime Minister or Chief Minister.

Law enacted by Parliament.

Legislative Assembly:
The Lower House of the New South Wales Parliament which first met in 1856.

Legislative Council:
The Upper House of the New South Wales Parliament.

A Law making body such as a Parliament.

An accepted practice in the Democratic process whereby individuals or groups seek to make their views known to politicians in the hopes of influencing decision making.

Lower House
One of the two houses in a bicameral system.
In New South Wales it is the Legislative Assembly, in the Australian Parliament it is the House of Representatives.


The symbol of Authority of the Speaker. It is carried by the Seargent-at-arms on ceremonial occasions.

Marginal Seat:
A seat which the elected Member won by a relatively small majority of votes, or margin.

Minor Party:
A political party with few or no Representatives in Parliament.

Minority Government:
A Government without a majority of seats in the Lower House and therefore dependent upon the support of other persons or parties to Govern.

A Member of the Government responsible for one or more Government departments.

The Ministers of the Cabinet.

Member of the House of Representatives.

Member of the Legislative Council.

Money Bill:
A Bill for the purpose of raising or spending money.

A Member of Parliament. In New South Wales it is a Member of the Legislative Assembly.

A proposal put to the House which is debated and voted upon.



The formal process by which the House is notified of forthcoming business, proposals by Members to introduce Bills or move motions. Notices are printed on the Notice Paper and circulated before each sitting of the House.



The second largest Party or Coalition of Parties after the Government in the Lower house.

It opposes what it believes to be wrong in Government policies or actions (usually for politically expedient reasons) and stands ready to form Government should it win a majority at a general election or through changing allegiances within the Lower House.

Lewis Carrol, in his work  Sylvie and Bruno, suggested that the Government and the opposition should be equally numbered.

This way, he claimed, the Government could put it's Bills and the Opposition could equally oppose them.

An interesting, though impractical, thought.

Optional Preferential Voting:
A voting system which allows voters to choose between a preferential vote (where all choices have to be shown in number order) and simply marking their Ballot Paper with a first choice only.

In using this system you are downgrading your power of real choice.
(See Preferential Voting)



Parliamentary Council:
Skilled legal officers who draft Bills for debate in Parliament.

Parliamentary Privilege:
The rights, powers and immunities of Parliament and it's Members necessary to uphold and protect the dignity and authority of Parliament:

For example Freedom of Speech.

It ensures that Parliament can proceed without fear of attacks on Parliament's authority.

A document, usually with multiple signatures, presented to a House of Parliament, through a Member, by a person or group of people requesting that Parliament consider action on a particular matter.

Point of Order:
Used when a Member suggests to the Presiding Officer that another Member is breaking the rules of the House during a Debate.

Polling Place:
A supervised location where people go to vote on polling day.

The specific responsibilities of a Minister: The Departments for which the Minister is responsible.

Preferential Voting:
A method of voting by which voters rank the Candidates on the ballot paper in order of their choice.

Votes are then counted and redistributed according to their choices until one Candidate wins.

This method gives each voter a greater say in the final outcome of the ballot.

The Chief Minister of a State Government in Australia and is the person elected by the Party or Coalition which wins a majority of seats in the Lower House.

Presiding Officer of the Legislative Council or Senate.

Press Gallery:
The term applies equally to the journalists accredited to report on Parliamentary Proceedings and the special galleries provided for them in the House.

Pressure Group:
A group of people with common interests who attempt to influence Government Policy and decisions in their favour.

Prime Minister:
The Chief Minister of the Federal Government in Australia.

Elected by the Party or Coalition with a Majority of seats in the House of Representatives.

Private Bill:
A Bill introduced for the particular benefit of certain individuals, public corporations, private companies or local authorities.

Private Bills are rare and do not affect the public at large.

Private Members Bill:
A Bill introduced by a Member in their own capacity rather than as part of Government policy.

Proportional Representation:
A voting system based on multi-member electorates such as the whole State where the number of members elected from each Party reflects the Party's share of the total vote.

Used for the New South Wales Legislative Council, The Australian Senate and the Tasmanian Lower House.

This system most accurately reflects the will of the electorate in the Parliament electing more Independents and minor parties.

The termination of a session of Parliament by the Governor, usually on the request of the Chief Minister.

On termination the Parliament is said to be Prorogued.

Public Bill:
Bills which deal with general interest and public policy which affect or could affect every person in the State.

Most Government Bills are Public Bills.



Question Time:
The time allotted in the Parliamentary day in each House when Members can direct questions without notice to Ministers.

The minimum number of Members necessary to be present to allow business to be conducted in a House of Parliament or Committee.

The number of votes required to elect a candidate in an election where the Proportional Representation method is used.



A vote to seek the people's decision on a particular issue,

A proposal is put on the ballot paper and voters are asked whether or not they agree with it.

Proposals for changes to the Federal Constitution must always be put to a referendum, but only certain kinds of changes to the New South Wales Constitution need to be agreed to by Referendum.

Responsible Government:
Normally a political system in which the Ministers of the Government must be supported by (and therefore be responsible to) a majority in the Lower House of Parliament.

Royal Assent:
The final stage in the process by which a Bill becomes an Act.

Once the Bill has passed through all stages in both Houses, the Governor signs it to give it formal approval.



A term for a Member's electorate or place in Parliament.

Second Reading:
The stage in the passage of a Bill through Parliament at which the major debate takes place on it's principle or purpose.

This will be followed by the Committee stage if it is to be considered in detail.

Secret Ballot:
A system whereby votes are cast privately in such a way that no-one can know how an individual voted.

Select Committee:
A Committee with a specific matter to report on, sometimes within a given time, after which it will cease to exist.

The Upper House of the Federal Parliament of Australia.

Separation of Powers:
Under the Westminster System the three arms of Government: Legislature, Executive and Judiciary have separate and distinct powers in order to limit abuses of power by Governments.
Parliament passes Laws,

The Ministry and Government Departments put them into operation and the Courts interpret them.

If the same arm of Government could carry out all of these functions this could lead to an abuse of freedom and rights.

An officer of the Legislative Assembly whose traditional duties include carrying the Mace on ceremonial occasions and carrying out the Speakers orders during sittings of the House.

The period between the opening and the Prorogation of Parliament.

Shadow Minister:
A Member of the Opposition who follows closely (shadows) a particular area of responsibility and activities of a Government Minister.

Sitting Days:
Days on which Houses of Parliament sit.

The Presiding Officer of the Legislative Assembly and the House of Representatives.

Standing Committee:
A committee existing for the life of a Parliament.

Standing Rules and Orders:
Permanent rules governing the conduct of the business of the House.

Statute Law:
Parliament-made Law as expressed in an Act.

The right to vote in a Parliamentary election.



Third Reading:
The final stage in a Bill's passage through a House before it is passed.

Transfer Value:
That portion of a vote that is unused because an elected candidate has obtained a surplus or those votes to be transferred because a candidate, having the fewest votes, is excluded.

The value can be one or a fraction of one.



Upper House:
One of the two Houses in a bicameral system. Normally the House of Review.

Usher of the Black Rod:
The Parliamentary officer who carries out certain executive and administrative duties on behalf of the President of the Legislative Council, including carrying the Black Rod on sitting days and ceremonial occasions.



Westminster System:
The system of Government which exists in the United Kingdom and which has been followed to a greater or lesser extent, by many Commonwealth countries.

So called because the British Houses of Parliament are located in the Palace of Westminster.

A member of a political party in each House of Parliament who organises member's attendance in the House and their participation in divisions and debates.

Given that the Senate is intended as a States House with Senators protecting the interests of their respective States, I can not understand the existence of Party Whips in the Senate.








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