Fact Sheet C4

Fact Sheet C4: Amendments to Bills - A Practical Guide

 

Summary: Members can propose amendments to bills. This fact sheet gives members practical information about the process for preparing amendments and how the Legislative Assembly deals with them. See the flow chart for details.

Amending the text of a bill - House amendments Debating amendments - consideration in detail
Opposing the principles of a bill - reasoned amendments Opposing the whole clause
Getting amendments drafted Voting on amendments
Clerks check the amendments Linked amendments
Copies prepared for the Chamber Bills guillotined under the government business program
Making amendments public

pdfCirculating and moving amendments flowchart

 

Amending the text of a bill - House amendments

Members can propose House amendments, which delete, add or change the wording of bills. This fact sheet deals with House amendments. House amendments can be moved when the bill is considered in detail.

Opposing the principles of a bill - reasoned amendments

Members can propose reasoned amendments. They cannot be used to change the bill's text. Instead, reasoned amendments start a broader discussion on alternative proposals.

Find out more: Fact Sheet C5 - Reasoned Amendments.

Getting amendments drafted

Parliamentary Counsel must draft all amendments, so instruct them as soon as possible, as drafting can be complicated. Call them on 03 9651 2103 to discuss your requirements.

They will send you a draft for your approval and may also discuss admissibility concerns with you. An amendment must be relevant to the bill.

An amendment causing government spending is only valid if the Governor recommends an appropriation. Only ministers can advise the Governor to do so. Therefore, opposition members cannot move amendments causing an appropriation.

You should approve the draft promptly so it can be sent to the clerks.

Clerks check the amendments

After you have approved the draft, Parliamentary Counsel send it to the clerks for checking. The clerks make sure the draft is relevant to the bill and that any appropriation is Governor-approved.

Copies prepared for the Chamber

When the clerks have finished their checks, they arrange photocopies for the Chamber. The copies are kept securely in the Chamber until you circulate them. You will also be given six copies at this stage.

Making amendments public

You can circulate your amendments in the Chamber when the Legislative Assembly next debates the bill. To do so, you need to make a short announcement and the clerks will give you the wording. If you are due to speak in the debate, the best time to make the announcement is at the start of the second reading debate. The amendments are then circulated with the bill and you are not interrupted during your speech.

After they have been circulated, you and other members can debate the principles of your amendments. This is only a general discussion, as you have only made the amendments public, not moved them. A full debate will only happen if you actually move them when the bill is considered in detail.

Debating amendments - consideration in detail

After the second reading debate, a bill can be considered in detail. If members do not have any amendments to propose and all agree, this step can be skipped. This is achieved by the Chair asking 'is leave of the House granted to proceed immediately to the third reading'? If no one objects, debate goes straight to the third reading.

A bill must be considered in detail if there are amendments. Even if there are no amendments, consideration in detail can still take place. However, it is bypassed at completion time of the government business program, as explained below.

The Deputy Speaker normally chairs the debate. A bill must be debated in a set order:

  • clauses in turn
  • new clauses
  • schedules
  • new schedules
  • preamble
  • long title
  • short title.

 

Clauses are normally considered individually, but may be grouped. The clerks will discuss with members which clauses they want to debate and work out the groups. During the debate you can speak twice on every question, for a maximum of five minutes on each occasion. The minister responsible for the bill has unlimited speaking rights.

You will need to move your amendment when the debate reaches the relevant clause. The Chair will call you to do so. You move it by saying, for example, 'I move amendment No 1 standing in my name'. You can explain the amendment to the Chamber and debate the issue.

Opposing the whole clause

If you oppose an entire clause, Parliamentary Counsel will indicate that disagreement in your amendments. For example, the amendments may include 'Clause 14, omit this clause'.

When the clause is debated, you do not actually move an amendment. Instead, you vote against the clause. Parliamentary Counsel includes the amendment only as an indication of your intention.

Voting on amendments

After debate, the Chair puts the relevant question. Where there is general agreement, the Chair proposes a simple question 'That the amendment be agreed to'. If an amendment is contested or a member wants to change the amendment itself, the following questions apply:

To delete words:

The question is 'That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the clause'. In effect, this is asking that the relevant words should be left in the bill. To support your amendment, vote 'no'.

To substitute words:

The first question is 'That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the clause'. To support your amendment, vote 'no'. If the result is 'no', the next question is 'That the words proposed in the amendment be inserted'. To support your amendment, vote 'yes'.

To insert or add words:

The question is 'That such words be inserted [or added]'.

Linked amendments

Amendments often are linked by themes. If one linked amendment is defeated, all those linked to it are automatically defeated. These are known as consequential amendments.

The clerks work out which amendments are linked. If time permits, the clerks will discuss them with you before the debate. The Chair also announces consequential amendments as the debate progresses.

Bills guillotined under the government business program

Each week, a number of bills are included in the government business program. The program gives a completion time for consideration of those bills.

At completion time, members vote on all programmed bills not already passed. If amendments have been circulated on any of those bills, members only vote on government amendments. Members do not vote on opposition amendments.

Find out more: Fact Sheet A4: Government Business Program.

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