Constitutional provisions

The Constitution vests the legislative power of the Commonwealth in the Federal Parliament, consisting of the Queen represented by the Governor-General, the Senate and the House of Representatives.[1] The making of a law may be subject to complicated parliamentary and constitutional processes but its final validity as an Act of Parliament is dependent upon the proposed law being approved in the same form by all three elements which make up the Parliament.[2]

The Parliament has power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to those matters defined by section 51 of the Constitution. Other constitutional provisions extend, limit, restrict or qualify this power, so that a full understanding of the Parliament’s legislative power can only be gained from the Constitution as a whole. The Constitution in its wording concentrates on the Parliament’s legislative power and does not detail in the same manner Parliament’s other areas of jurisdiction and functions of substantial importance.[3]

The Constitution contains certain provisions which affect a Parliament’s legislative process, for example, the provisions relating to:

  • financial or money bills (see Chapter on ‘Financial legislation’);
  • assent to bills (see page 399);
  • bills to alter the Constitution (see page 385); and
  • disagreements between the Houses (see Chapter on ‘Double dissolutions and joint sittings’).

Another constitutional provision of direct relevance to the legislative process is section 50 which grants each House of the Parliament the power to make rules and orders with respect to the order and conduct of its business and proceedings and which, for the purposes of this chapter, gives authority for the standing orders which prescribe the procedures to be followed in the introduction and passage of bills.