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A Parliamentary Glossary


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Absentee Voting

Voters who cannot attend a polling place within their own electorate voting at another polling place in Victoria.


A Bill that has been passed by Parliament, received Royal Assent, and become law.


The formal answer of each House to the speech made by the Governor (as the Queen's representative) at the opening session of each Parliament.

Adjournment debate

A debate held at the end of each sitting day in Parliament in which Members can raise a matter of Government administration for a Minister's attention; so called because it takes place on the motion to adjourn the House for the day.


Comprising representatives of all political parties who are represented in Parliament.


An alteration to a Bill or Act.

Appropriation Bill

A Bill which when passed by Parliament will allow the Government to spend money.


To agree or approve.

Australian Democrats

A political party established in 1977.

Australian Labor Party (ALP)

Australia's oldest political party, formed nationally in 1901, and given its present name in 1918.



A Member of Parliament who is not a Minister and holds no special office (such as President or Speaker); the name is used because such Members sit on the benches at the back of the House.


The process by which people vote in an election.

Ballot box

A box into which voters put their ballot papers.

Ballot paper

A piece of paper with the names of parliamentary candidates on it and which is given to voters at a polling place to record their vote.


A Parliament that has two Houses (an Upper House and a Lower House).


A proposed law (or statute, or piece of legislation) that is introduced into Parliament but has not yet been passed. If passed and granted Royal Assent, it becomes an Act.


Involving the support or membership of two political parties.

Black Rod

The symbol of office of the Usher of the Black Rod.(Click for photo [10k])


The Government's annual plan outlining revenue and expenditure measures introduced into the Parliament by the Treasurer.

Budget sector agencies

All agencies of the State Government funded wholly or substantially from public revenue (mainly Government Departments).


An election held between general elections to fill a seat left vacant because a Member has resigned, been expelled, or died.


A rule or regulation.



A group of senior members of the Government, all of whom are Ministers, and who are responsible for the development and implementation of policy.


The period before an election in which parliamentary candidates and parties seek to win voters' support.


A person who stands for election to Parliament.

Cast a vote

On election day, the process of choosing a candidate or candidates by filling in a ballot paper.

Casting vote

A vote which decides a matter when votes are divided equally.


A person in charge of a meeting; in the Legislative Council, the President or his or her deputy, in the Legislative Assembly, the Speaker or his deputy.


The room in which the Legislative Council or the Legislative Assembly meets.

Clerk of the House

The most senior parliamentary officer in each chamber.

Clerk of the Parliaments

The senior permanent parliamentary officer in the Parliament of Victoria.

Close of the poll

The time at which voting ends on the day of an election. Currently in Victoria it is 6.00 p.m.


A combination of two or more parties in Parliament.


A group of Members of Parliament that considers matters referred to it and reports its findings to Parliament.

Committee of the whole

see Committee Stage.

Committee Stage

A stage during the Legislative Council's consideration of a Bill when each clause may be examined in detail and amendments may be considered; comprised of all Members (Committee of the Whole).

Consideration in Detail

A stage during the Legislative Assembly's consideration of a Bill, chaired by the Deputy Speaker, when clauses may be examined in detail and amendments considered.

Common law

Law that has developed and continues to evolve in the courts.

Consolidated fund

The fund created to receive all revenue raised by and granted to the state. All payments from it must be authorised by Parliament.


The electorate or area, or the people in it, which a Member of Parliament represents.


The people who live in a Member's electorate, and who are represented by that Member in Parliament.


The law that defines the powers and responsibilities of the Parliament of Victoria.
(A full copy of the Victorian Constitution Act 1975 is available on the Department of Premier and Cabinet's Victorian Legislation and Parliamentary Documents site.)


The formal term for Her Majesty, used especially in the context of the Queen exercising her legal powers.



When a complete impasse is reached in a parliamentary debate, or disagreement between the Houses.


The formal presentation in the legislative chambers of various viewpoints.

Declaration of poll

The formal announcement of election results; the end of the electoral process.

Delegated legislation

see Subordinate Legislation.

Democratic Labor Party (DLP)

The DLP is a political party in Victoria formed when they split from the ALP in 1955.


Candidates must pay a deposit to the Electoral Commission when they nominate for a seat. Their deposit is refunded if they receive 4% or more of the first preference votes.


The termination of a Parliament in order that a General election may be held.


A vote taken in a House of Parliament when the names of Members are recorded individually according to how they vote.

Donkey vote

A ballot paper on which the voter has ranked candidates from `1' onwards straight down the ballot paper without regard to the merits of the candidates; also refers to the total number of votes allocated in this way.

Draft Bill

Document prepared by Parliamentary Counsel for use by Cabinet in discussing proposed legislation.


Electoral claim

An application made by a person eligible to vote to be placed on the Electoral Roll.

Electoral District

The name given to the geographic area that comprises a Legislative Assembly electorate. There are currently 88 Electoral Districts in Victoria. Each is represented by one Member of the Legislative Assembly.

Electoral Province

Until 2006 Legislative Council electorates were called "Provinces". Each comprised four lower house districts and elected one Councillor for two terms of Parliament each election (i.e. they were represented by two Councillors at any one time). The Legislative Council electorates are now "Regions" (see below).

Electoral Region

The name given to the geographic area that comprises a Legislative Council electorate. There are 8 Electoral Regions in Victoria. Each Region elects 5 representitives by proportional voting.

Electoral Roll

The list of people who are enrolled to vote in State and Commonwealth elections.


The geographic area which is represented by a Member of Parliament; or, the body of Electorates in a collective sense.


The point at which a Law, as expressed in an Act of Parliament, comes into force.


Giving to an individual or class of persons the right to vote in elections.


Those from within the Government who define and implement policy, and who are answerable to Parliament for their administration.



The creation in 1901 of a new nation, Australia, from the six Australian colonies: Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, and Western Australia.

Financial year

The twelve months from 1 July in one year to 30 June in the next.


A system of voting in which the candidate with the most votes is immediately declared elected.

First Reading

The stage in parliamentary proceedings at which permission is obtained to proceed with a Bill.


The right to vote.


General election

An election in which all seats in both Houses are declared vacant and contested.


The manipulation of electoral boundaries unfairly to give an unfair advantage to one party in elections.


The party or group of parties (Coalition) that enjoys the support of the majority of Members of the Legislative Assembly.

Government Bill

A Bill introduced by a Minister on behalf of the government.


The Queen's representative in Victoria.


The formal meeting of the Governor and the Executive Council.

The Greens

The Australian Greens, a political party with an environmental focus.



The written record of parliamentary debates; also a work unit within the Department of Parliamentary Services that produces the written record.

House of Commons

The Lower House of the Parliament of the United Kingdom

House of Lords

The Upper House of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

House of review

A term applied to those Second Chambers and Upper Houses responsible for providing a second opinion or look at Bills passed by the Lower House; in Victoria, the Legislative Council.


Term used to refer to both the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly.


Cards handed out by political parties and independent candidates, usually at Polling Places, showing voters how best to vote for their preferred candidate or party.



A Member of Parliament who is not a member of a political party.

Informal vote

A vote that is not counted because the ballot paper has not been completed according to electoral law.




Labor Party

see Australian Labor Party


The system of rules providing a basis for society to function harmoniously and efficiently.

Leader of the Government

In the Legislative Assembly the Premier; in the Legislative Council a Government member elected to manage proceedings on behalf of the Government.

Leader of the Opposition

A Member elected by the Opposition to lead them and to shadow the Premier.


Laws enacted by a Legislature or Parliament.

Legislative Assembly (Click for photo [27k])

The Lower House of the Parliament of Victoria.

Legislative Council (Click for photo [26k])

The Upper House of the Parliament of Victoria.

Liberal Party of Australia (Lib.)

A political party founded in 1944.

Loan Council

A body comprising the Commonwealth and State treasurers that meets annually to determine each State's public sector borrowing levels for the new financial year.

Lower House

One of the two Houses in a Bicameral system; in Victoria the Legislative Assembly, and in Australia, the House of Representatives. The Government is formed from the party or coalition with a majority in the Lower House. See also Upper House.


Mace (Click for photo [18k])

The symbol of the office of the Speaker, carried by Serjeant-at-Arms.


A Member of the Government responsible for one or more Government departments; he or she is also a member of Cabinet.


Member of the Legislative Assembly.


Member of the Legislative Council.

Money Bill

A Bill for the purpose of either raising or spending money.

M. P.

Member of Parliament.


A proposal put to the House framed in a way that will result in the opinion of the House being expressed or a decision being made.


An electorate that is represented in Parliament by more than one Member, eg.a Senate electorate or a Legislative Council Province.


A region administered by its own local government.



Originally known as the Country Party, and formed in 1920. Renamed the National Party in 1975 and The Nationals in 2004.

Non-budget sector agencies

Those agencies of State Government financed wholly or substantially outside public revenue by producing goods and services for sale in the market at a price intended to recover all or most of their operating costs; e.g. SECV, Melbourne Water Corporation, Gas and Fuel Corporation of Victoria.


The formal process by which the House is notified of the intentions of Members to introduce Bills, ask questions, or move motions. Notices are printed on the Notice Paper and circulated before each sitting of the House.



The second-largest political party or coalition of parties after the Government party or coalition of parties, in the Legislative Assembly.


Behaviour in the Legislative Chambers in accordance with Standing and Sessional Orders.; an instruction by a Presiding Officer to behave in accordance with Standing and Sessional Orders.



The Parliament of Victoria consists of the Queen, the Legislative Assembly, and the Legislative Council; also used to refer to the two Houses.

Parliament House

The building, located in Spring Street, Melbourne, where the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly meet.

Parliamentary Counsel

Specialists in the Department of Premier and Cabinet who draft Bills for Parliament.


A petition is a Parliamentary form that provides a direct means by which any citizen or group can place concerns before the Parliament. See the Fact Sheet on Petitions.

Polling place

A location where people go to vote on the day of an election; often a school or town hall.


The specific policy responsibilities that a Minister oversees.

Postal voting

A procedure by which a Ballot Paper is sent to a voter who cannot go to a Polling Place on polling day, in order that he or she can post it back to the Electoral Office before the close of the poll, thereby registering a vote.

Preferential voting

A method of voting by which voters rank the candidates on a Ballot Paper in order of preference.


The chief minister of a State Government in Australia.

Premiers' Conference

A meeting of the Commonwealth Prime Minister and State Premiers, held annually, to determine each State's general revenue grant.


The Presiding Officer of the Legislative Council

Presiding Officers

The Members of Parliament elected to preside over meetings of their respective Houses (the President and Speaker); they also take responsibility for the administration of the parliamentary departments.

Press gallery

Journalists accredited to report on parliamentary proceedings; the special galleries in both Houses in which accredited journalists sit to observe parliamentary debates.

Pressure group

A group of people joined together by some common interest who attempt to influence Government policy.

Private Member's Bill

A Bill introduced by an Opposition, Independent or Government backbench member in his or her own capacity rather than as a Member of the Government .

Program budgeting

A system of budgeting whereby monies are allocated to programs rather than organisational divisions, and performance is assessed against defined program objectives.

Proportional representation

A system of voting designed to allocate seats in a multi-member electorate in proportion to the number of votes cast for each candidate or party.


The termination of a session of Parliament by the Governor.

Public Service

Government organisations and staff employed in them.


Question time

The allotted time in the parliamentary day when members direct oral questions to Ministers.


The number of members necessary to be present to constitute an official meeting and allow business to be conducted.


Recurrent expenditure

Spending by Budget Sector Agencies to cover salaries and associated costs, operating expenses, grants and contributions, pensions payments and debt charges.


Responsible government

A political system in which the Government must be supported by a Parliament which is itself answerable to the public, usually through the election process.

Royal Assent

The last stage in the process by which a Bill becomes an Act; the Governor, representing the Queen, gives it formal approval.



A politician's electorate; or a Member's position in the legislative chambers.

Second Reading

The stage in Parliament at which the underlying principles of a Bill are debated.

Secret ballot

A system where votes are cast privately and without the possibility of knowing for whom individual people voted. It is known in the United States as the Australian ballot because it was first introduced in Victoria and South Australia in 1856.

Select committee

See committee


In Victorian history, refers to the separation of Port Phillip from New South Wales to become a separate colony.

Serjeant-at-Arms (Click for photo)

The executive officer of the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.


The period between the opening and the prorogation of Parliament.

Sessional Orders

Temporary orders governing the conduct of proceedings for a session, e.g., sitting days and times.

Shadow Minister

A member of the Opposition who has responsibility for a particular area of policy; the member is said to `shadow' the appropriate Minister.

Sitting days

Days on which one or both Houses of Parliament meet.

Sitting period

A period of time during which Parliament meets regularly; in the Parliament of Victoria there are usually spring sittings (August-December) and autumn sittings (March-May).


The Presiding Officer of the Legislative Assembly.

Special appropriations

Monies automatically appropriated from the Consolidated Fund by particular Acts of Parliament for specific purposes. Estimates for them are included in the Budget papers, but the government's obligation to fund them continues throughout the Financial Year.

Standing Orders

Permanent rules governing the conduct of business in the House, e.g., the stages through which Bills proceed, conduct of debate, etc.

Statute law

Parliament-made law expressed in an Act.

Subordinate legislation

Regulations or similar rules made under the authority of an Act.


The right to vote in parliamentary elections.

Supply Act

The Act which makes provision for the appropriation of monies necessary for the ongoing business of government during the Supply Period.

Supply Period

The period from 1 July until the Appropriation Act gains Royal Assent.


Taxing Bill

A Bill that authorises taxation measures.

Third Reading

The final stage of a Bill's progress in a House of Parliament before it is passed.


Unenacted Law

The name sometimes given to common law.

Upper House

One of the two Houses in a bicameral Parliament; in Victoria the Legislative Council and in Australia the Senate. Upper houses have similar powers to Lower Houses, except that they cannot initiate or amend money Bills and the Government is formed from the party that enjoys the support of a majority of the Lower House.

Usher of the Black Rod (Click for photo)

The executive officer of the President of the Legislative Council.


Victorian Parliamentary Debates

The printed report of parliamentary debates, informally referred to as `Hansard'. Also the work unit within the Department of Parliamentary Services that produces the printed report.


Westminster System

The system of Government that exists in Great Britain and which has been copied, to a greater or lesser extent, by many Commonwealth countries; so called because it is named after the precint Westminster where the House of Commons and the House of Lords meet.


A member of a political party in a House of Parliament who manages the business of the parliamentary party and organises the participation of members in divisions and debates.

Works and services expenditure

Spending by Budget Sector Agencies on the construction, renovation, purchase and development of buildings, structures, land and natural resources.





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