Parliament and the law

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Legislation is the act of creating new laws.

New laws in Australia can be created in two ways. Laws that are developed in response to decisions made by courts and judges are known as 'common laws'. Find out more from the 'Courts & tribunals' page in this section.

Laws that are created and passed by parliaments are known as 'statute laws'. The jurisdiction of laws created by the Parliament of Victoria is limited to within the State of Victoria.

In addition to Victorian laws, laws developed by the Federal Parliament and the Federal courts are also enforced within Victoria.

The structure of the Victorian Parliament

There are two parts to the Victorian Parliament. This kind of arrangement is called a 'bicameral' or 'two-chamber' system.

The two chambers of parliament are called the Lower House or Legislative Assembly (new window), and the Upper House or Legislative Council (new window).

When voters in Victoria vote, they nominate two people to represent them - one in the Legislative Assembly and one in the Legislative Council.

The political party that has the largest number of members voted into the Legislative Assembly is the party that forms the Government of Victoria.

The political party with the second largest number of members in the Legislative Assembly forms the official Opposition.

All other people voted into the Legislative Assembly are either members of other political parties, or are independent politicians (i.e. they aren't members of any political party).

What's the difference between Parliament and Government?

The word 'Parliament' refers to the entire law-making institution, which in Victoria includes the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council. This means that when you're talking about 'Parliament', you're talking about the Government, the Opposition and any other members of parliament as well.

'Government', in Victoria, refers only to the group of people belonging to the political party with the largest numbers in the Legislative Assembly, who have come together to take on the specific roles and responsibilities involved in running the state of Victoria.

How is a law made in Victoria?

There is a formal procedure involved when creating a new law in Victoria.

First, an individual or a social group generates the idea for the law and then it's written down in a form known as a 'draft bill'. The draft bill is then read out in parliament and discussed by all members of parliament. Individuals and committees make suggestions for changes to the draft bill until an agreement is reached about those changes.

Both the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council must agree upon a bill before it is passed to the Clerk of Parliaments, who certifies the bill and passes the certified version of the bill to the Governor of Victoria, who gives the Royal Assent to the bill.

After receiving Royal Assent, the bill becomes law.

How can I get a law made or changed?

There are various ways in which you can attempt to influence parliament in order to get a law that you think is important either developed or changed. For example you can:

  • Contact members of parliament, political parties, unions and the media to discuss your ideas
  • Organise a petition and send it to the relevant minister or member of parliament
  • Join a political party or interest group and convince them that your idea is a good one, then work with them to influence parliament

Links

Parliament of Victoria
Contains a detailed overview of all different aspects and structures that make up Victorian Parliament.

Parliament of Victoria - How a Law is Made in Victoria
Provides a basic introduction to the process of legislation in Victoria. They have a handy, easy-to-follow flowchart showing a bill's progress from idea to law.

Parliament of Victoria - List of Members of the Victorian Parliament
Includes a list of MPs with their own web pages, a list of ministers and shadow (opposition) ministers, and a list of women in parliament.