Amendments are a change to a bill – a proposed law. They are an important part of the law-making process of the Australian Parliament. This fact sheet outlines the amendment process.
Amending a bill
In the Australian Parliament, an amendment is a change to a bill – a proposed law. Amendments allow for bills to be improved or altered as they progress through the Parliament.
Just like all bills must be discussed and voted on in the Parliament, amendments must also be discussed and voted on. Amendments can be introduced in either the Senate or the House of Representatives, and must be agreed to by both.
The process of amending a bill
Any member of parliament can suggest an amendment to a bill. This is called 'moving an amendment'. The amendment is submitted in writing to the Clerk of the Senate or House. The Clerk then prints and distributes copies so that everyone can read the amendment. Members of parliament can then decide to support or oppose the amendment when it is time to vote.
Consideration in detail and committee of the whole
Changes to bills are often suggested during the law-making process. The most common time for moving amendments to bills is during the consideration in detail stage in the House of Representatives or committee of the whole in the Senate. Amendments to long and complicated bills may be debated for many hours or days. During consideration in detail, members in the House of Representatives may speak for 5 minutes about an amendment. Senators may speak for 15 minutes during committee of the whole. In both cases, members of parliament may speak more than once.
Restrictions on amending bills
According to the Australian Constitution, the Senate cannot amend money or taxation bills. It may only request that the House of Representatives amend such bills.
Amending an Act
An Act – an existing law – can be amended to remove a perceived fault, correct a problem or omission, or to simply update it.
If an Act is to be amended, an amendment bill must be introduced into the Parliament. If the amendment bill is passed, the title of the Act then includes the word 'amendment', for example, the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017.
The usual path of a bill.
Parliamentary Education Office (peo.gov.au)
This diagram illustrates the usual path of a bill through the Australian Parliament to become Australian law.
In the House of Representatives a bill goes through the following stages:
- 1st reading—the bill is introduced to the House of Representatives.
- 2nd reading—members debate and vote on the main idea of the bill.
- House committee (optional stage)—public inquiry into the bill and reporting back to the House.
- Consideration in detail (optional stage)—members discuss the bill in detail, including any changes to the bill.
- 3rd reading—members vote on the bill in its final form.
The bill is passed in the House of Representatives and sent to the Senate.
Senate referral—the Senate may refer the text of the bill to a Senate committee for inquiry (this can happen while the bill is in the House).
In the Senate a bill goes through the following stages:
- 1st reading—the bill is introduced to the Senate.
- 2nd reading—senators debate and vote on the main idea of the bill.
- Senate committee (optional stage)—public inquiry into the bill and reporting back to the Senate.
- Committee of the whole (optional stage)—senators discuss the bill in detail, including any changes to the bill.
- 3rd reading—senators vote on the bill in its final form.
- The bill is passed in the Senate.
The bill is given Royal Assent—The Governor-General signs the bill.
The bill becomes an Act of Parliament—a law for Australia.
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