Most Australians have an opinion about law-making, and leading from this generally have strong opinions on the parliamentary representatives in power when laws are passed. What many Australians don’t understand is the complex system from which our laws stem. In this article, I hope to give a brief overview of the Australian law making process and pinpoint exactly where our laws come from.

Essentially, there are three areas that can make laws in Australia. These are:

  1. The Federal Parliament

This sector was established by the Constitution and has the power to make laws for the entirety of Australia.  The Federal Parliament is bicameral in Australia, which basically means that it is made up of two parts – the Senate and the House of Representatives.  When both parts, or ‘houses’, agree on a Bill (a draft of a proposed law which is presented to the parliament for critique) being passed, royal assent from the Governor-General is sought and the legislation is officially passed.

The law-making power of the Federal Parliament is however limited. Section 52 of the Constitution lists areas where the Parliament has exclusive law making rights and bars any other law-making sector for legislating in those areas.  Section 51 of the Constitution gives power to the states to refer law-making powers to the Federal Parliament in a limited number of areas.

  1. Individual States and Territory Parliaments

State and Territory Parliaments are able to legislate on any matter outside of Section 52 and state responsibilities if not deferred by virtue of Section 51. It is important to remember with regards to these powers that in the event that the State/ Territory Parliament and the Federal Parliament make laws that conflict, the Federal law will prevail to prevent any inconsistency.

  1. Councils

Councils are local governments made up of elected members (elected by people in the constituency) and staff. Councils make by-laws which are basically an offshoot of primary legislation that deals with local matters and provision of services to smaller areas. This makes sense if you think about it – the laws needed in a city such as Brisbane as opposed to a country town such as Maryborough would need to cover different things, and council by-laws allow the council to tailor laws to matters which are of interest to their particular area.

Law-making is a particularly interesting area of law and one that affects us all. If you have any questions about law-making feel free to contact Greenhalgh Pickard on or call 07 5444 1022.