One of the functions of Parliament is to make laws. To make a law, Parliament enacts legislation which is also known as statutes or Acts of Parliament.
An Act of Parliament starts as a Bill in one of the Houses. A Bill is the draft of a proposed law. Most Bills deal with management of public affairs and the implementation of Government policy and are introduced by a Minister, but a member of either House is entitled to introduce a Private Member's Bill.
To become an Act, a Bill must pass through a number of formal stages. These are -
The Introduction and First Reading
A Minister or member of either House may introduce a Bill. This is usually agreed to without debate. Immediately after introduction, the Bill is "read" a first time; that is, the Clerk reads the title of the Bill.
The Second Reading
The member/Minister in charge of the Bill starts the second reading debate with a speech that explains the intended effect of the proposed legislation. All members are entitled to make one speech during that debate with the member/Minister in charge of the Bill having a right of reply in which the various arguments raised in debate are answered.
The Second Reading is the most important stage through which a Bill passes because the whole principle or policy of the Bill is at issue. At the end of the Second Reading the main vote on the Bill is taken.
Committee of the Whole House
When a Bill has passed the Second Reading, the House forms itself into a 'Committee', presided over by the Chairman of Committees.
The Bill is then dealt with clause by clause to ensure that when it becomes an Act, it will carry out Parliament's intention. At this stage, amendments can be moved to the clauses of the Bill. In some cases a Bill may be committed to the Committee of the Whole House more than once, mostly to tidy up amended clauses.
Referral to Other Committees
In the Legislative Council, Bills may be referred to an appropriate standing committee for its consideration and report to the Committee of the Whole House. This is a good example of how the Legislative Council performs its review function. Similarly, in the Legislative Assembly, Bills may be referred to a select committee or a legislation committee.
It is possible to bypass the Committee of the Whole House stage when a Bill is not controversial. In other words, if all Members of a House agree with the Bill, it need not be referred to the Committee of the Whole House and may proceed directly to the Third Reading.
The Third Reading
Once the House has dealt with the Bill in the Committee of the Whole House, the next stage is the Third Reading. Although this stage is mainly formal, the Bill is occasionally debated again when its subject matter is controversial.
Presentation to the Other House
The Bill is then sent to the other House where, following receipt by Message (a formal means of communication between the Houses) rather than introduction, the same procedure takes place.
Assent by the Governor
Having passed through both Houses, the Bill is presented to the Governor, who assents to it in the name and on behalf of the Monarch. On assent, the Bill becomes an Act of Parliament.
Some Acts of Parliament specify that they, or portions of them, do not come into operation until they are proclaimed by order of the Governor (on the advice of the Executive Council). A notice of proclamation must be published in the Western Australian Government Gazette.
Disagreements between the Houses
If the two Houses cannot agree on amendments made to a Bill, each may appoint a number of members to meet and try to settle the difference. This procedure is known as a Conference of Managers. If the Conference of Managers fails to reach agreement, the Bill fails.
Financial (Money) Bills
Under section 46 of the Constitution Acts Amendment Act 1899, all Bills that involve expenditure of public moneys must originate in the Legislative Assembly. This is to ensure that management of public expenditure remains in the hands of the Government (which is formed from the party or coalition of parties having a majority in the Legislative Assembly). Although money Bills must originate in the Legislative Assembly, the Legislative Council can veto the Bills and may amend certain types of money Bills. The interpretation of section 46 has been the source of many disputes between the two Houses.