What the F is: A Bill (and how does it become a law?)
Updated: Feb 20
How does a Bill become a law in Queensland? There are a lot of terms that we kind of know but also mostly don’t, and this is one of them. Many of us understand the concept of a bill and vaguely know that it may become a law down the track, but today we're breaking it down for you.
1. Introduce the Bill (The First Reading)
A minister decides that they think there is a gap in the law. Most Bills are put forth by the party that is in government, but members of the opposition or minor parties can also put a Bill forward.
When the member proposes a Bill it starts with an explanatory speech. The explanatory speech is allowed to be up to an hour. It explains the Bill and why they believe it should become a law. The member has to ‘table’ their Bill. The Table Office is a government department that manages new Bills and deals with all the logistical aspects of the process. The includes:
Explanatory notes of the Bill (this is like an executive summary)
The Bill itself
Fundamental legislative principles (This is an explainer that the proposed Bill doesn’t violate human rights and liberties that we are used in Queensland)
A transcript of the explanatory speech, and
The committee in charge of scrutinising the Bill.
This step is called the first reading because it refers to back in the day when MPs would actually read the Bill for the first time in this session.
2. Refer to the committee
There are a number of committees that are made up of a group of Members of Parliament (MPs). Each committee has set policies that make up their portfolios, these are matters like education, health, environment etc. There is also an Ethics Committee which deals with complaints about MPs and breaches of process. Anyway, back to the Bills!
The committee scrutinises the Bill. This process is about six months long. The committee is in charge of reading submissions on the Bill from stakeholders and the community. They also are in charge of hearings with experts and other government departments. After all this scrutinising, they make a committee report. The committee is meant to be collaborative, but there is a chair who has final say on whether the report is in favour or not.
3. The Second Reading
The minister moves that the Bill be read a second time. Every member of parliament gets to have ten minutes to talk to the Bill. This is usually their opinion/hot takes/issues on the Bill. At the end of this, there is the ‘first division’ (which is a vote). The members all vote on whether the Bill should go through to a law. If the majority vote against the Bill at this stage, then it is completely voted out.
4. Consideration in Detail
The parliament debate what is going on in the Bill. Each member has a chance to move an amendment. The Table Office works on tabling these amendments and sending any proposed amendment out to all the members. Offering amendments turn around pretty quickly, and there is a division for every amendment that is offered.
5. The Third Reading
The members each read through the new Bill in its entirety with all the amendments. Then, there is the final division on whether the Bill should pass.
The Governor (on behalf of the Queen) has to sign off on the Bill. After the Bill is signed, it becomes an Act of Parliament.
7. Bill becomes Law
Finally, the Bill has to be published in a Government Gazette, which is the announcement of it becoming a new law.