A Glossary of Parliamentary Words

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  1. absolute majority

    More than half the total votes of all those eligible to vote; in a house of Parliament, one more than half the votes of the total number of members of the house, whether they are present or not, as opposed to a simple majority

  2. accountable

    able to be called on to explain ones actions. Ministers are accountable to Parliament for actions they take while in office

  3. Act (of Parliament)

    a law made by Parliament; a bill which has passed all three readings in each house and has received the royal assent

  4. Acts Interpretation Act

    an Act of Parliament which gives guidance as to the meaning of expressions used in other acts and which gives details of procedures to be followed under other acts [Acts Interpretation Act 1901]

  5. address (to the Governor-General or the Queen)

    a formal message to the Governor-General or the Queen by a house of Parliament stating the view of the house or making a request; the message is often in answer to the Governor-Generals speech on the opening of a session of Parliament (address-in-reply), but may also be a message of congratulations, sympathy or farewell, or a request that the Governor-General, as a constituent part of the Parliament, perform a particular action

  6. address-in-reply

    the formal answer of each house to the speech made by the Queen, or the Governor-General as her representative, at the opening of each session of the Parliament

  7. adjourn

    to put off, postpone or defer

  8. adjournment debate

    a debate usually at the end of each sitting day of a house when members make speeches about any subject on the motion to end the sitting

  9. administrative arrangements orders

    (AAOs) specify firstly, the subject matters, and secondly, the legislation dealt with by particular government departments. AAOs are published in the Commonwealth Gazette, which currently means either the regular Government Notices Gazette or a Special Gazette.

  10. affirmation of allegiance

    see oath or affirmation of allegiance

  11. another place

    a term sometimes used in one chamber of a two-chamber Parliament to refer to the other chamber

  12. appropriation bill

    a bill which, when passed by Parliament, will allow the government to spend money it has gathered from the community through taxes and charges

  13. Australian Democrats (A.D.)

    a political party formed in 1977

  14. Australian Labor Party (A.L.P.)

    the oldest political party in Australia, formed nationally in 1902 and given its present name in 1918

  15. Australian Loan Council

    an organisation made up of the Prime Minister and the state premiers which decides how much money each government may borrow in the financial year ahead

  16. ayes

    the collective vote of members in a house of Parliament who support a proposal


  1. backbench/er

    1. those members of Parliament who are not ministers, shadow ministers or presiding officers
    2. the seats where such members sit

  2. bar (of the Senate, of the House of Representatives)

    a barrier inside the main entrance to each chamber and across the space between benches leading to the floor of the Senate and House of Representatives. Members and senators can speak to their respective chambers only from within the area defined by the bar, and no one who is not a member of that house may enter that area during a sitting except by invitation

  3. bicameral

    having two chambers or houses, especially of a law-making body

  4. bill

    a proposal for a new law which has been presented to Parliament

  5. Black Rod (see Usher of the Black Rod)

  6. blue-ribbon (electorate)

    an electorate where a majority of voters usually vote for the same member or party, so making it a safe seat for that member or party

  7. bring down the budget

    to place a plan before Parliament each year showing what money the government expects to receive (revenue) and how the government wants to spend it (expenditure)

  8. budget bills

    proposals for new laws to allow the government to spend money; there are usually two main bills - Appropriation Bill (No. 1) and Appropriation Bill (No. 2) - which are placed before the Parliament in May each year

  9. by leave

    with the permission of every member present in the chamber

  10. by-election

    a special election held to fill the seat of a Member of the House of Representatives who has died or resigned


  1. cabinet

    the group of senior ministers in a government

  2. cabinet government

    a system of government in which the most important decisions are made by cabinet ministers, who are members of Parliament and who are supported by a majority in the lower house

  3. cabinet solidarity

    a commitment by individual cabinet ministers to the position adopted by the majority of cabinet

  4. casting vote

    a vote exercised by the Speaker or certain committee chairs only when the votes for and against a proposal are equal

  5. casual vacancy

    a vacancy in the Senate that is caused when a Senator dies or resigns before his or her term has expired

  6. caucus

    1. the meeting of the parliamentary members of a political party
    2. the members of Parliament belonging to a particular political party, used particularly in relation to the Australian Labor Party

  7. censure motion

    a motion moved in either house which is very critical of, and which seeks to attach blame to, a minister, another member, or the government

  8. Chair

    1. the seat in which the presiding officer sits in the chamber
    2. the member presiding in the chamber or in a committee

  9. Chair of Committees

    a Senator who is in charge of the committee of the whole in the Senate, and who is also the Deputy President of the Senate, the full title being Deputy President and Chair of Committees

  10. chamber

    1. the meeting room of a house of Parliament
    2. a law-making body

  11. clause

    a numbered provision in a bill. Once a bill becomes an Act, a clause is known as a section

  12. Clerk

    the senior permanent official of a house of a Parliament who advises on procedure and records the decisions of the house, and is the administrative head of the houses support services

  13. Clerks certificate

    the statement signed by the Clerk of a house to state that a bill has passed that house, with or without amendments; every bill must have a final Clerks certificate before it is sent to the Governor-General for the royal assent

  14. closure (and see gag)

    a way of ending a debate and causing a vote to be taken straight away on the matter being discussed, even though some members may still wish to speak

  15. coalition

    the joining together of two or more groups or parties, usually to form a government or opposition

  16. coalition government

    a government formed from more than one political party

  17. cognate debate

    a debate in which two or more related matters are discussed at the same time

  18. committee of the whole

    a committee consisting of all the members of the Senate usually formed to consider a bill in detail. (The House of Representatives considers bills in detail without entering into a committee of the whole)

  19. committee, parliamentary (see parliamentary committee)

  20. committee, party (see party committee)

  21. common law

    law based on custom or court decisions, as distinct from statute law

  22. Commonwealth

    1. the people of a nation or state
    2. a group of countries or peoples united by a common interest

  23. Commonwealth Parliamentary Association

    an association of parliaments of countries that make up the Commonwealth of Nations, such as Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, Papua New Guinea and India

  24. Compact of 1965

    an agreement made in 1965 between the Senate and the government as to what proposals for expenditure contained in appropriation bills would not be considered part of the ordinary annual services of government, and thus amendable by the Senate

  25. concurrent power (of the Constitution)

    power which, under the Constitution, may be exercised by both the Commonwealth and the states

  26. conference

    a meeting of representatives of both houses of Parliament to discuss an issue on which the houses do not agree

  27. confidence

    the support of more than half the members of the House of Representatives for the government, which may be shown by voting on a particular major issue

  28. Congress (USA)

    the national law-making body of the United States of America, consisting of a Senate and a House of Representatives

  29. conscience vote (see free vote)

  30. constituency

    the electoral division or area, or the people in it, which a member of Parliament represents

  31. constituent

    someone who votes, or lives, in an electoral division or area which a member of Parliament represents

  32. Constitution

    the set of basic rules by which a country or state is governed; Australias constitution is set out in the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act

  33. constitutional

    1. having the power of, or existing because of, the laws set out in the Constitution
    2. in agreement with, or depending on, the laws set out in the Constitution

  34. constitutional convention

    1. an unwritten rule or practice, or an established custom, relating to the operation of a constitution
    2. a meeting called to consider or draw up a constitution

  35. constitutional monarchy

    a country which has a monarch, whose powers are limited by a constitution

  36. contempt (of the Senate or the House of Representatives)

    disobedience to the authority or orders of the houses, or interference with or obstruction of their work or the work of Senators or Members

  37. count-out

    an adjournment for lack of a quorum

  38. cross the floor

    to vote with a party other than that for which a member was elected

  39. crossbench

    one of a set of seats for members of Parliament who belong to neither the government nor the opposition parties; seats for minor parties and independents

  40. Crown privilege

    a special exemption claimed by ministers which may allow some important papers to be kept secret (now usually called public interest immunity)

  41. cut-off

    a deadline for the introduction of government bills into the Senate, imposed by the Senate in an attempt to avoid a rush of bills at the end of sittings; in order to be considered in a period of sittings a bill must be first introduced in either house in the previous period of sittings, and be received by the Senate before two-thirds of the current sitting period has expired


  1. Daily Program

    a program or agenda, less formal than the Notice Paper, which shows the items of business with which the House of Representatives is expected to deal on a particular day, often called the Blue

  2. deadlock

    a situation where the Senate fails for a second time, within a specified time-frame, to pass a bill as agreed to by the House of Representatives

  3. debate

    a formal discussion in a house on a bill or other topic in which different views are put to arrive at a decision

  4. declaration of poll

    an announcement of the results of voting at an election

  5. delegated legislation

    law made by the executive government under an Act of Parliament, which does not require parliamentary enactment; examples are regulations, orders, determinations and rules

  6. deliberative vote

    a vote in Parliament which has as much value as any other vote, as opposed to a casting vote, held by the Speaker and some committee chairs

  7. democracy

    1. a way of governing a country in which the people elect representatives to form a government on their behalf
    2. a country with such a government
    3. the idea that everyone in a country has equal rights

  8. despatch boxes

    two ornamental boxes which lie upon opposite sides of the Table of the House of Representatives and which once were a storage place for papers; ministers and shadow ministers usually speak from a position next to the despatch box on their side of the Table

  9. determination

    authoritative decision, rule or arrangement

  10. disallowance

    the vetoing of delegated legislation by either house of the Parliament, which has the effect of repealing it

  11. dissolve the House

    to bring to an end the life of the House of Representatives and make a new election necessary

  12. division

    1. the separation of the members of a house of Parliament into two groups, for and against a proposal, so that their votes can be counted
    2. one of the parts that a country or state is divided into for the purpose of holding elections, specifically an electoral division
    3. a self-contained section or part of an Act

  13. division of powers

    the constitutional allocation of powers and functions between a national Parliament and government and state parliaments and governments, which forms the basis of a federal system of government

  14. donkey vote

    a vote where a voter appears to make no choice among the candidates, but numbers preferences for candidates in the order in which they are listed on the ballot-paper

  15. Dorothy Dix question

    a pre-arranged question asked of a minister in Parliament, usually by a member of the minister's own party, which allows the minister to give a prepared reply

  16. double dissolution

    the dissolution by the Governor-General of the Senate and the House of Representatives simultaneously, resulting in the termination of all business before them, and the calling of an election to return members for all seats in both houses; this may occur only in circumstances of deadlock between the houses prescribed in section 57 of the Constitution


  1. enabling (of an Act, or bill)

    allowing something to be done which would otherwise not be permissible

  2. estimates

    the sums of money which the government proposes it will need to provide works and services during a financial year

  3. estimates committee

    an informal, shorthand term commonly used to describe a legislation committee of the Senate when considering estimates

  4. exclusive power (of the Constitution)

    the sole right, given by the Constitution, of the federal Parliament, as opposed to state parliaments, to legislate on certain subjects; for example, the power to make laws for the whole country on customs and excise duties

  5. executive

    1. the branch of government which carries out or administers the laws
    2. ministers from the governing party who make policy and control government departments, and who are answerable to Parliament for the way they run the government

  6. Executive Council (see Federal Executive Council)

  7. executive power

    the power to administer the law, and one of the three powers under the Constitution, the others being the legislative power (exercised by Parliament) and the judicial power (exercised by the High Court and other courts)

  8. explanatory memorandum

    a paper which explains the purpose and details of bills or regulations, usually in a simple and non-technical way


  1. federal

    having to do with the national Parliament or government rather that state parliaments or governments

  2. Federal Executive Council

    the council of ministers which advises the Governor-General and gives legal form to cabinet decisions

  3. federalism

    a system of government in which powers and responsibilities are divided between a national government and provincial or state governments

  4. federation

    the forming of a nation by the union of a number of states, each of which retains some power to govern itself, while ceding some powers to a national government. In Australia, the creation of a single nation in 1901 by the joining together of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania

  5. filibuster

    the use of long speeches or other tactics in Parliament to delay deliberately a vote or decision

  6. financial initiative (of the Crown)

    the rule that only the government can begin the process of setting or increasing taxes or of making an appropriation that draws on public funds

  7. financial power (of the Parliament)

    the power of the Parliament to approve all expenditure proposals by the government

  8. financial year

    a 12-month period, usually 1 July to 30 June, at the end of which a government or company balances its accounts and reports on them

  9. first chamber

    a name for the lower and usually larger house of a legislature; in Australia, the House of Representatives

  10. first reading

    the first stage in the progress through a house of a bill (also called its initiation), marked by the reading by the Clerk out loud for the first time of the long title of a bill, usually straight after it is presented to the house

  11. first speech (formerly maiden speech)

    the first speech in Parliament by a newly-elected member, when the member is traditionally heard without interjection or interruption

  12. first-past-the-post

    a way of voting where the candidate who gets the largest number of votes wins, even if it is less than half the votes cast

  13. fixed term

    a term of office with a defined beginning and end

  14. floor of the Senate/House of Representatives

    the area containing Senators and Members seats and the area in between, in the chambers of the Senate and House of Representatives

  15. formal business

    1. business before the Senate on which Senators agree unanimously to make a decision without debate
    2. business which concerns the arrangements of a house, and not major issues

  16. free vote

    a vote in Parliament in which members are free to vote according to their own judgment or belief, and not necessarily according to the guidelines, policies or decisions of their political party

  17. freedom of information

    the principle that citizens should have a right to see most government papers and reports, particularly those which relate to their personal affairs

  18. frontbench/er

    1. those members of Parliament who are ministers or shadow ministers
    2. the seats where such members sit


  1. gag (and see closure)

    a procedure for closing a discussion in a house when some members still wish to speak

  2. Gazette (Commonwealth of Australia Gazette)

    an official government publication which gives information about government matters and makes government announcements including proclamations

  3. general business

    business before the Senate which is put forward by Senators who are not ministers; the equivalent of private Members business in the House of Representatives

  4. government business

    business of a house which is introduced by a minister

  5. governor

    the representative of the Queen in a state of the Commonwealth of Australia

  6. Governor-General

    the representative of the Queen in Australia at the federal level

  7. Governor-General in Council

    the Governor-General formally acting with the advice of ministers through the Federal Executive Council

  8. grievance debate

    a weekly debate in the House of Representatives during which Members may speak about any matter of concern to them or their constituents

  9. guillotine

    a procedure which sets time limits on the passage of a bill or motion


  1. Hansard

    1. the official transcript of the debates in Parliament, officially the Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates of the Senate and the House of Representatives
    2. the office which produces transcripts of parliamentary debates

  2. hearing (of a committee)

    a meeting of a parliamentary committee for the purpose of taking oral evidence

  3. High Court (of Australia)

    the court set up under the Australian Constitution to decide matters arising under the Constitution, and to hear appeals from the supreme courts of the states and other federal courts

  4. honourable

    a title of members of Parliament who are members of the Federal Executive Council, current and former ministers, and certain other persons, such as the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives

  5. House of Assembly

    the name of the lower house of Parliament in South Australia and Tasmania

  6. House of Commons

    one of two houses of Parliament in the United Kingdom and Canada, in which members are elected on the basis of population

  7. House of Lords

    one of two houses of Parliament in the United Kingdom, comprising hereditary, appointed and elected members

  8. House of Representatives

    One of the two houses of the federal Parliament of Australia, whose Members are elected on a population basis

  9. House of Representatives Practice

    the main reference book on the law, practice and procedure of the House of Representatives

  10. house of review

    a name often used to refer to the Senate, meaning a house which provides a second look or a close re-examination of matters considered in the other house

  11. how-to-vote card

    a card or piece of paper handed out at an election by a political party or candidate showing a voter how the party or candidate would prefer the voter to vote


  1. immunity

    the protection of members of Parliament and others from civil or criminal action in relation to their participation in parliamentary proceedings, and the protection of parliamentary proceedings from impeachment or question in the courts (see also privilege, parliamentary)

  2. in committee

    the state of a house of Parliament when it has formed itself into a committee of the whole house, usually to consider the detail of a bill

  3. in order

    in accord with the rules, in a correct form or style, as required by parliamentary procedure

  4. independent (Member or Senator)

    a member of Parliament who does not belong to a political party

  5. informal vote

    in an election, a voting paper which is not counted because it has not been filled in correctly

  6. initiate (a bill)

    to originate a bill in either house of parliament

  7. inquiry (parliamentary)

    an investigation by a parliamentary committee

  8. Inter-Parliamentary Union

    an international association of parliaments

  9. introduce (a bill)

    to bring in and formally present a bill to a house for future consideration


  1. joint committee

    a parliamentary committee made up of members of both houses of Parliament

  2. joint sitting (of the two houses)

    a meeting of both houses of Parliament together to make a decision on a proposed law which the two houses, sitting separately, have been unable to agree on

  3. Journals of the Senate

    the official minutes of proceedings in the Senate

  4. judicial power

    the power to interpret or apply the law in particular cases; one of the three powers under the Constitution, the others being the legislative power and the executive power


  1. Labor Party (see Australian Labor Party)

  2. Leader of the Government in the Senate

    the leader in the Senate of the party or coalition which has formed the ministry

  3. Leader of the House

    the minister who arranges and manages government business in the House of Representatives

  4. Leader of the Opposition

    the leader of the party or coalition of parties which is the next largest after the government party in the House of Representatives, and which is made up of members who do not support the government

  5. Leader of the Opposition in the Senate

    the leader of the party which is the next largest after the government party in the Senate, and which is made up of Senators who do not support the government

  6. leave (of the Senate or the House of Representatives)

    the permission of all members present in the chamber at the time to do something which otherwise could not be done at that time or in that way

  7. legislation committee

    a standing committee of the Senate which inquires into bills, estimates, annual reports and performances of government agencies

  8. legislative and general purpose standing committees

    parliamentary committees of the Senate which cover all areas of government activity, and to which matters are referred by the Senate for investigation

  9. Legislative Assembly

    the lower house of Parliament in New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia and the sole house of Parliament in Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory

  10. Legislative Council

    the upper house of Parliament in all Australian states except Queensland

  11. legislative power

    the power to make and change laws; one of three powers under the Constitution, the others being the judicial power and the executive power

  12. legislative process

    the series of actions which result in a law being made

  13. Liberal Party of Australia (L.P.)

    a party founded in 1944 by Sir Robert Menzies and others, which developed from the Liberal Party of 1909, the Nationalist Party of 1917 and the United Australia Party of 1931

  14. life (of a Parliament)

    the period of time from the first meeting of a House of Representatives to the dissolution (breaking up) or expiry of the House

  15. Loan Council (see Australian Loan Council)

  16. long title (or title of a bill)

    the full title of a bill which sets out briefly the purpose or scope of the bill (and see short title)

  17. lower house

    a house of a two-chamber Parliament, usually having more members than the upper house, and whose members usually represent electorates with similar numbers of voters; the House of Representatives is the lower house in the Australian Federal Parliament


  1. M.P. (see Member of Parliament)

  2. Mace

    once a weapon of war shaped like a club, and the symbol of royal authority, but now the symbol of authority of a lower house of Parliament and its Speaker

  3. maiden speech (see first speech)

  4. Manager of Government Business in the Senate

    the government Senator who arranges and manages government business in the Senate on behalf of the Leader of the Government in the Senate

  5. Manager of Opposition Business

    the opposition member who represents the interests of the opposition in negotiations with the government concerning the business of the House of Representatives

  6. matter of public importance

    a subject for discussion which is suggested to a house by a Senator or Member, and which must be supported by a certain number of other Senators or Members before discussion proceeds

  7. Member of Parliament

    a member of a house of Parliament, usually used to describe a member of a lower house and, in Australia, referring to Members of the House of Representatives, who may use the initials M.P. after their names

  8. message

    the most common form of official communication between the houses

  9. minister (or minister of state)

    a member of Parliament who is a member of the executive government, and who is usually in charge of a government department

  10. ministerial accountability

    the requirement that a minister can be called upon to explain in Parliament his or her actions and those of the department and agencies under his or her control

  11. ministerial responsibility (sometimes used in the same sense as ministerial accountability)

    responsibility to the Parliament for actions taken by a minister or on that ministers behalf; the doctrine that the ministers in a government, individually and collectively, depend for their continuance in office on maintaining the support of a majority of the House of Representatives

  12. ministerial statement

    a statement made by a minister to a house of Parliament, often used to announce the governments policies and decisions

  13. ministry

    members from both houses of Parliament chosen from the party or coalition of parties with a majority in the lower house to administer the country, who are formally appointed by the Governor-General as his or her ministers of state and together with the Governor-General form the executive government

  14. minority government

    a government formed by a party or coalition of parties which does not have a majority in the House of Representatives in its own right

  15. money bill

    a bill setting a tax or proposing the spending of money for a particular purpose

  16. motion

    a proposal for action put forward in the Senate or the House of Representatives, for consideration, debate and decision

  17. move (a motion)

    to make a formal proposal


  1. name (a member)

    to formally identify a member for disorderly behaviour during a sitting of a house, by which action a presiding officer sets in train disciplinary proceedings which may result in the suspension of the member from the house

  2. National Party of Australia (N.P.)

    a party formed in 1920 as the Australian Country Party, later called the National Country Party, and then the National Party of Australia

  3. nexus

    a provision of the Constitution which requires that the number of Members of the House of Representatives be, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of Senators

  4. no confidence (motion or vote of)

    a means by which a house expresses dissatisfaction with the performance of a government or a minister; a successful no confidence motion in the House of Representatives may lead to the resignation of the government or minister

  5. noes

    the collective vote of members in a house of Parliament who oppose a proposal by voting no

  6. notice of intention to present a bill

    an announcement of intention to introduce a bill at a future sitting; notices are listed on the Notice Paper

  7. notice of motion

    an announcement of intention to put forward a motion for consideration, nearly always for a later day

  8. notice of question (see question)

  9. Notice Paper

    the document issued each sitting day which lists all outstanding business before a house of Parliament (including orders of the day, notices of motion, notices of intention to present bills as well as questions on notice)


  1. oath or affirmation of allegiance

    a declaration of loyalty to the Queen which the Constitution requires each member of Parliament to make before taking a seat in Parliament

  2. Odgers Australian Senate Practice

    the main reference book on the law, practice and procedure of the Senate

  3. Office of Parliamentary Counsel

    an office of legal officers who draft or prepare proposals for new laws

  4. office-holder (of the Parliament)

    a member of Parliament who holds an official position in the Parliament, such as the President or the Speaker

  5. officer (of the Parliament)

    a permanent career official or employee of one of the parliamentary departments which provide support services for the federal Parliament

  6. Ombudsman

    an official whose job is to look into peoples complaints against the government or public servants

  7. open government (and see freedom of information)

    a principle of government under which citizens are given maximum opportunity to know about government decisions and the reasons for those decisions, and where citizens have a right to see most government papers and reports

  8. opening speech (at the opening of Parliament)

    a speech by the Queen, or her representative, the Governor-General, in which the reasons for the calling together of Parliament are given, the affairs of the country are reviewed and the governments plans for new laws are outlined

  9. opposition

    the second largest political party or coalition of parties after the government party in the House of Representatives which works to oppose what it believes to be wrong in government policies or actions, and which stands ready to form a government should the voters so decide at the next or a subsequent election

  10. opposition backbencher

    a member of Parliament who belongs to the opposition party or parties, but who is not a shadow minister

  11. order

    1. correct or proper actions or conduct in meetings of a house or committee
    2. a decision of the Senate or the House of Representatives by which the houses direct their committees, members, officers and their own actions

  12. order of production of documents

    an order of a house of Parliament requiring that specified documents be laid on the table (ie presented to the house)

  13. Order of Business

    1. a program or agenda which shows the items of business which the Senate is expected to deal with on a particular day, known as the Senate Red
    2. the sequence of business

  14. order of the day

    an item of business which the Senate or the House of Representatives has ordered to be set down for discussion on a particular day, usually the next day of sitting

  15. ordinary annual services of government

    those services which are necessary for the continuing and settled operation of government; under the Constitution the Senate cannot amend bills which appropriate revenue for such services, which include matters agreed in the Compact of 1965

  16. other place (see another place)

  17. out of order

    not in accordance with recognised parliamentary rules


  1. pair

    an arrangement between parties whereby two members from opposing sides of a house do not vote on a particular occasion, so that one or both can be absent without affecting the result of the vote

  2. paper

    1. a report or document presented to a house of Parliament
    2. parliamentary paper: a paper which has been presented to Parliament and published in the Parliamentary Papers series

  3. Parliament

    in Australia, an assembly of elected representatives, usually having an upper and a lower house which, with the head of state (the Queen, represented by the Governor-General or Governor), makes the laws for the country or state

  4. Parliament House

    the building where the two houses of Parliament meet, on Capital Hill in the Australian Capital Territory

  5. parliamentary committee

    a small group of members of Parliament, usually drawn from all parties in one or both of the houses, which examines, reports on, and makes recommendations about a particular subject

  6. Parliamentary Counsel (see Office of Parliamentary Counsel)

  7. parliamentary democracy

    a system of government in which power is vested in the people, who exercise their power through elected representatives in Parliament

  8. parliamentary departments

    the three departments which service the commonwealth Parliament, namely the departments of the Senate and the House of Representatives (chamber departments) and the Department of Parliamentary Services

  9. parliamentary government

    a system of government in which the executive government is answerable to the Parliament, in which the government is formed from members of the Parliament, and in which the Parliament is supreme

  10. parliamentary precincts (and see parliamentary zone)

    the area in Canberra enclosed by Capital Circle, in which Parliament House is situated and over which the Parliament has certain regulatory powers

  11. parliamentary procedure

    rules for and methods of carrying out the business of a house of Parliament

  12. parliamentary secretary

    a member with similar status to a minister who assists a minister in performing his or her executive functions

  13. parliamentary zone (also called parliamentary triangle)

    (also called parliamentary triangle)
    the area in Canberra enclosed by Commonwealth Avenue, the southern shore of Lake Burley Griffin, Kings Avenue and State Circle, in which the Parliament and other public buildings are situated and over which the Parliament has certain regulatory powers; the parliamentary precincts are contained within the parliamentary zone

  14. party (see political party)

  15. party committee

    a group of members of Parliament from the same political party who look at a particular area of government or opposition policy, and assist their party to make decisions on laws and other matters connected with that area of policy

  16. party discipline

    the control used by a political party to encourage its members in Parliament to vote together

  17. party room

    a room where the parliamentary members of a political party hold meetings

  18. party-political

    having to do with the affairs or interests of a political party, sometimes to the benefit of a party ahead of the benefit of the public

  19. personal explanation

    a short statement made in Parliament by a Senator or Member concerning a matter with which he or she is personally connected, or by a Senator or Member who feels he or she has been misrepresented and who wishes to state the correct facts or situation

  20. petition

    a document presented to a house of Parliament by a person or group of people asking for action on a matter

  21. point of order

    a question to the Chair as to whether proceedings in a meeting are in accord with the rules or in the correct form

  22. political party

    an organisation which exists to achieve particular public policy objectives by having members elected to Parliament

    minor party: a recognised non-Government party of at least 5 members see PARLIAMENTARY ENTITLEMENTS ACT 1990
    - SECT 3

  23. portfolio

    the area of responsibility or duties of a minister in a government

  24. powers (under the Constitution)

    the three types of authority legislative, executive and judicial provided under the Australian Constitution; the legislative powers of the federal Parliament

  25. prayer (of a petition)

    a request at the end of a petition, usually that a certain course of action be taken or not taken

  26. preferential voting

    a system of voting in which a voter shows an order of preference for candidates; if no candidate receives more than half of first preference votes (or in the case of voting for the Senate, candidates have not achieved a pre-determined quota), the next preferences of voters for the least successful candidates are distributed until candidate or candidates are elected

  27. President (of the Senate)

    the Senator who is elected by the Senate as its presiding officer

  28. presiding officer (of the Parliament)

    a member of Parliament elected to preside over, or be in charge of, the business, proceedings and administration of a house of Parliament; in the Senate the President, and in the House of Representatives, the Speaker

  29. press gallery

    1. the area in each chamber set aside for seating for members of the press reporting on Parliament
    2. the offices of the press and electronic media working from Parliament House
    3. journalists working from Parliament house who report on the Parliament

  30. Prime Minister

    the head of the national government, the chief minister in some countries, including Australia

  31. private member

    a member of Parliament who is not a minister

  32. private Members business

    business before the House of Representatives which is proposed by Members who are not ministers, as opposed to government business

  33. privilege, parliamentary

    the immunity of the houses of Parliament and their powers to protect the integrity of their processes

  34. procedure (see parliamentary procedure)

  35. proceedings (of a House of Parliament)

    the formal actions and decisions of a house of Parliament

  36. proclamation

    an official public announcement, usually published in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette

  37. proportional representation

    a voting system, such as that used in elections for the Senate, when a number of candidates, who have received a pre-determined proportion rather than a majority of the vote after the distribution of preferences, are elected to represent the people of each state, voting as one electorate

  38. prorogue (the Parliament)

    to end a session of Parliament without dissolving either House and therefore without a subsequent election

  39. put the question

    ask for a decision on a motion or stage of a bill


  1. question

    1. a matter, such as a motion or stage of a bill, to be debated and voted on
    2. a request for information of a minister, in the Senate or the House of Representatives. A question without notice is asked orally during Question Time, for immediate answer, and a question on notice is a written question asked of a minister which is answered in writing at some later time

  2. Question Time

    a daily period of time in each house of the Parliament in which ministers are asked questions without notice concerning their responsibilities by other members

  3. quorum

    the minimum number of members, specified by law, who should be in the chamber before it transacts business (one quarter of all Senators; one fifth of all Members of the House of Representatives)

  4. quorum call

    the result of a member drawing the attention of the Chair to the absence of a quorum: the Chair causes the bells to be rung for a set period to enable an adequate number of members to assemble in the chamber

  5. quota

    1. the number of votes a candidate must receive before they are elected to the Senate, which is calculated by dividing the total number of ballot papers by one more than the number of Senators to be elected and adding one to the result
    2. a figure based on population which determines how many members a state or territory is entitled to have in the House of Representatives
    3. a figure which provides an indication of the average number of voters who should be on a divisions electoral roll for the purpose of returning a Member to the House of Representatives


  1. reading (of a bill)

    a formal stage in the passage of a bill through a house of Parliament; the first reading occurs when a bill is introduced, the second when it has been agreed to in principle and the third when it has been fully considered and any amendments agreed to; it is usual practice for the second reading of a bill to be moved immediately after the bill has been read a first time

  2. recess

    the period between sessions of Parliament, but in ordinary usage the word is often used to describe the periods between the main sitting periods each year, as in the winter recess

  3. recommit (a bill)

    to send a bill back to a committee of the whole so that all or part of the bill can be looked at again

  4. redistribution

    a new arrangement of the electoral divisions in a state or territory with the result that the boundaries of some existing divisions are changed

  5. redistribution commissioners

    persons chosen by the Governor-General who periodically redistribute electoral boundaries to ensure each electoral division has roughly the same number of voters

  6. reference

    a matter that has been referred to a parliamentary committee for consideration and report; a subject being considered by a committee

  7. references committee

    a standing committee of the Senate which inquires into matters referred to it by the Senate

  8. referendum

    a vote by all voters on a question; in Australia, nearly always a public vote on a proposed law to alter the Constitution

  9. regulation

    a law made under the authority of an Act of Parliament

  10. report (from a committee of the whole)

    a statement given orally to the President of the Senate by the Chairman of Committees on the results of the committee of the wholes consideration of a bill or other matter

  11. report (of a parliamentary committee)

    a statement, usually in writing and containing recommendations, of the results of an inquiry by a parliamentary committee

  12. request (for an amendment)

    the Senates act of asking the House of Representatives to make an amendment to certain financial bills which, under the Constitution, the Senate cannot amend itself

  13. reserve powers

    powers accorded to the Governor-General by convention which are not written into the Constitution and which may be exercised without ministerial advice

  14. resolution

    a motion which has been agreed to by a house and expresses the will or opinion of that house

  15. responsible government

    a system where the government is answerable to elected representatives of the people for its actions, especially a system where the ministry is drawn from within the Parliament from members of the party or parties which has the support of a majority of the lower house (in Australia the House of Representatives), and must maintain the confidence of a majority of that house

  16. return to order

    a document produced as a result of an order for the production of documents

  17. revenue

    incoming money; the money a government collects from taxes and other sources

  18. right honourable

    a title of members of Parliament and other persons who are members of the Privy Council, a body in the United Kingdom which advises the sovereign (Australian federal parliamentarians are no longer appointed to the Privy Council)

  19. rotation (of Senators)

    the constitutional provision that one half of the places of Senators from the states become vacant each three years; as Senators have a term of six years, this ensures continuity in the membership of the Senate

  20. royal assent

    the signing of a bill by the Governor-General, which is the last step in making a bill into an Act of Parliament, or law

  21. royal commission

    a body formed by a person or persons chosen by a government to inquire into and report on a matter of public concern

  22. rule of law

    the principle that all people are equal before the law, and that all government action will be undertaken in accordance with the law

  23. ruling (of the President or Speaker)

    a formal decision made by the President or Speaker, usually on a matter of procedure in the Senate or the House of Representatives


  1. schedule (to a bill or Act)

    a list at the end of a bill or Act which contains matters of detail

  2. seat

    a place for a member in a house of Parliament

  3. second chamber

    a name which is sometimes used to refer to an upper house of Parliament, such as the Senate

  4. second reading (of a bill)

    the second stage of the passage of a bill through a house at which time discussion on the principle or purpose of the bill takes place

  5. secretary (of a parliamentary committee)

    a parliamentary officer who looks after the support arrangements for a parliamentary committee, including correspondence, record-keeping, research, and arrangements for meetings where witnesses give evidence, and who often prepares the first draft of a committees report

  6. secretary (of a department)

    a public servant who is the administrative head of a government department

  7. section (of an Act)

    a separately-numbered provision in an Act of Parliament corresponding to a clause in a bill

  8. select committee

    a parliamentary committee established by either house or both houses to inquire into and report on a particular subject; a select committee ceases to exist when it has made its final report to the house or houses

  9. Senate

    One of the two houses of the federal Parliament of Australia, which has 76 Senators, 12 from each of the six states and two each from the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory, elected from each state and territory voting as one electorate

  10. Senator

    a member of the Australian Senate

  11. senators' statements

    subjects on which Senators may speak in the Senate between 12:45 and 2 pm on Wednesdays, without any question before the chair

  12. separation of powers, doctrine of the

    the notion that, in a free society, the Parliament, the executive government and the courts are separate and act independently without interference from each other

  13. Serjeant-at-Arms

    an officer of the Department of the House of Representatives (and carrier of the Mace) who carries out the orders of the House and who assists to keep order in Parliament House

  14. session

    a parliamentary period which starts on the first day of sitting after an election or prorogation and ends at a prorogation or a dissolution of the House of Representatives or, if neither has happened, after three years; a session may last from one day to three years

  15. sessional order

    a temporary rule governing the conduct of business in a house of Parliament, which applies only for a defined period within the session in which it is made (and see standing orders)

  16. shadow cabinet

    the group of members of the main opposition party or parties in a Parliament who act as party spokespersons on the principal areas of government; the senior members of the shadow ministry

  17. shadow minister

    a member of the main opposition party or parties in a Parliament who is a party spokesperson usually in an area matching the responsibility of a minister

  18. short title (of a bill)

    the name of a bill by which it is commonly known and indexed as distinct from its long title which describes its scope and purpose

  19. simple majority

    in a house of Parliament, more than half the votes of those members present and voting, as opposed to an absolute majority

  20. simultaneous dissolution (see double dissolution)

  21. sitting

    a meeting of the Senate or the House or Representatives (a sitting day)

  22. sittings

    periods of meetings of a house of Parliament; in the federal Parliament there are usually three periods of sittings (Autumn, Winter and Spring) in the year, during which neither house adjourns for more than 20 days

  23. Speaker (of the House of Representatives)

    the Member who is elected by the House of Representatives as its presiding officer

  24. standing committee

    a parliamentary committee appointed by either house or both houses to inquire into and report on certain matters; a standing committee usually continues to exist for the life of a Parliament

  25. standing orders

    a collection of rules agreed to by a house which govern the way it conducts its business

  26. states house

    a term often used to describe the Senate, meaning the elected house of Parliament in which all states have equal representation

  27. states rights

    the powers or entitlements of states in a federal system

  28. statutory authority

    a government agency set up by an Act of Parliament, more or less independent of day-to-day ministerial control, usually not bound by public service procedures to the same extent as ordinary departments, and which is responsible finally to Parliament

  29. submission (to a committee)

    suggestions or arguments made orally or in writing to a committee

  30. suspend (a Senator or member)

    to remove a Senator or Member from a house and so prevent, for a time, his or her performing any duties in, or being present in, the house (usually in response to disorderly conduct by the Senator or Member)


  1. table

    • 1. to present a document or other item to a house of Parliament

    • 2. the table in front of the Presidents or Speakers Chair

  2. tacking

    the inclusion in the same bill of expenditure proposals which the Senate is able to amend, together with proposals dealing with appropriations for the ordinary annual services of government, which, under the Constitution, the Senate is not able to amend, but for which it may request amendments

  3. take note of answers, a motion to

    a motion requiring no notice or leave, moved at the end of question time in the Senate, which allows a Senator to speak for 5 minutes in response to an answer or answers given during question time

  4. teller

    a member, usually a whip, chosen to count the members voting either for the ayes or the noes in a division

  5. Temporary Chairmen of Committees

    a panel of not less than two Senators, one of whom may act as Chair when the Senate sits as a committee of the whole

  6. terms of reference (of a committee)

    the scope for activity and investigation defined for a committee by a house of Parliament when a matter is referred to it for inquiry

  7. territory

    in the federal system of government, an area which has not been given the full rights of a state (for example, the Northern Territory)

  8. third reading

    the final stage in the passage of a bill through a house of Parliament


  1. unicameral

    consisting of one chamber or house, especially of a law-making body

  2. unparliamentary language

    words used in a house which the Chair judges to be offensive or disorderly, and which are usually required to be withdrawn

  3. upper house

    the second chamber in a two-chamber Parliament; the Senate is the upper house in the federal Parliament

  4. urgency motion

    a motion moved in the Senate which, if supported by a specified number of Senators, enables debate in the chamber of a matter of concern, without requiring prior notice (see also matter of public importance)

  5. Usher of the Black Rod

    an officer of the Department of the Senate (named after the Black Rod he or she carries) who has special duties on ceremonial occasions such as the opening of Parliament, and who assists to keep order in Parliament House


  1. voices, on the

    a decision reached by members saying aye if they support a motion proposed to a house, or no if they do not. The Chair states which side appears to be in the majority and if there is no objection the decision has been made on the voices. If, however, more than one member disagrees, they may call for a division

  2. Votes and Proceedings of the House of Representatives

    the official minutes of the proceedings of the House of Representatives


  1. want of confidence (see no confidence)

  2. Westminster system

    a system of government originating in Britain, the main features of which are a head of state who is not the head of government, and an executive which is drawn from and directly responsible to the Parliament

  3. whip

    a party manager in Parliament who is responsible for organising members of his or her party to take part in debates and votes, and who assists in arranging the business of a house of Parliament

  4. witness (before a committee)

    a person who gives evidence to a parliamentary committee

  5. writs (for an election)

    formal orders, issued by the Governor-General in the case of Members of the House of Representatives and state governors in the case of state Senators, requiring that an election be held