The Role of the Legislative Assembly

The Western Australian Parliament is a bicameral system which has two Houses of Parliament; the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council. While the Constitution of Western Australia requires the Parliament to make laws for peace, order and good Government of Western Australia, it is the Legislative Assembly that actually provides the Government.

The Legislative Assembly's principal functions are -

To provide an Executive (ministry) for the administration of the day-to-day affairs of Government, ie. services provided by departments and authorities such as Main Roads WA (department) and the Environmental Protection Authority. Executive Government is formed by the political party or coalition of parties with a majority of members in the Legislative Assembly. The leader of the majority (the Premier), when appointed by the Governor, chooses his Ministers from his party's/coalition's membership in the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council.

To provide approval of finance for Government operations. The Parliament carefully scrutinises the Government's budget during the Budget debate (usually held in May of each year) and the Estimates Committees in each House of Parliament. Members consider the budget in detail by questioning Ministers, who are usually accompanied by officers of their respective departments, about matters relating to day to day operations of a department, ie. steps taken to reduce classroom sizes, and about capital works, ie. seeking details about the construction of the Northbridge tunnel.

To monitor and scrutinise Executive Government's administration and operations. This is generally regarded to be the primary function of Her Majesty's Opposition led by the leader of the largest party in opposition (Leader of the Opposition). All backbenchers (members who are not Ministers), including Government members , participate in overseeing the work of Government. This is achieved in the Legislative Assembly by -

Parliamentary Questions

Backbench members can ask questions of responsible Ministers about matters relating to their various portfolio responsibilities (Government departments and authorities). Questions can be asked with notice (placed on the Notice Paper(business paper) of the House) or asked in the House without notice during Question Time. Question Time is normally held in the Legislative Assembly at approximately 2.00 pm on each Sitting Day. Parliamentary Questions and answers are published in Hansard.

Motions in the House

Backbench members can raise matters relating to Government policy and actions by moving a motion. This is usually debated until the House reaches a decision by way of a vote on the matter.

Petitions

Members can present Petitions on behalf of members of the public. Petitions allow citizens to request the Parliament to redress any local or personal grievance they may have. Petitions can ask for changes to the law or may ask to have a general administrative decision reconsidered. Petitions can also request the redress of a personal grievance but they cannot ask for a grant of money.

Parliamentary Committees

Select Committees are appointed from time to time to carry out investigations on a matter of concern within the community and report back to the House with recommendations on how the problem can be fixed. Topics of investigation could involve Government policy or matters which are not covered by Government policy, ie groundwater management and human reproductive technology. Standing Committees (permanent) are also appointed to review matters connected with the receipt and expenditure of public moneys; subordinate legislation (regulations) made under the authority of an Act; and specific matters relating to the monitoring and review of the performance of the Corruption and Crime Commision.

To legislate. Legislation (called Bills when introduced into Parliament) is the method used by Governments to regulate our society by way of laws. Most Bills are int roduced by the Government through the responsible Minister. Private members (backbenchers) of Parliament can also introduce Private Members' Bills. Legislation is closely scrutinised by members to ensure the laws introduced by the Government are acceptable to their constituents (voters). Often private members' amendments to legislation are accepted by the Government because they improve or clarify the laws.

To provide representation of the people of Western Australia. Members are able to raise in the House issues of concern within their respective electorates and by seeking this information they can keep their constituents informed. Members also raise issues affecting their constituents which have not been resolved through normal channels, ie. where departmental rules are rigidly followed but, after the matter is raised in the Parliament, a commonsense approach is adopted by the Minister and the problem is quickly addressed.