What happens to a law that is not passed by one of the houses?

Great question George! Both the Senate and the House of Representatives have to agree to a bill – a proposal for a new law – before it becomes a law. If one of the houses doesn't pass the bill, it cannot become a law.

If this happens the originating house – the house in which the bill is introduced – may;

  • pass the bill again and send it back to the second house
  • change the bill so the second house will pass it
  • lay the bill aside (not go forward with the bill)

Section 57 of the Australian Constitution provides a procedure if the Senate and House of Representatives cannot agree on a bill introduced in the House of Representatives. If the Senate and the House of Representatives can not agree on a bill introduced twice in the House of Representatives (and all the requirements in the Constitution have been met), the Prime Minister can ask the Governor-General to call an election for all the seats in the House of Representatives and the Senate. This is called a double dissolution and has only occurred 7 times.

The steps a bill must go through before a double dissolution can be called.

Double dissolution trigger

Parliamentary Education Office (peo.gov.au)

Double dissolution trigger

The steps a bill must go through before a double dissolution can be called.

Parliamentary Education Office (peo.gov.au)

Description

A graphic illustrating the process for a double dissolution:

  • Bill passes in the House of Representatives
  • Bill fails to pass in the Senate
  • Three months goes by
  • Bill passes in the House of Representatives
  • Bill fails to pass in the Senate
  • Double dissolution can be requested