Make a law: House of Representatives

Discover how bills—proposed laws—are introduced, debated and voted on in the House of Representatives by turning your class into a Parliament and doing it yourselves!

Students
Years 5 to 12
Duration
1 to 2 lessons

Role-play the Parliament: House of Representatives 

This video demonstrates a parliamentary role-play, where students can learn how new laws are made in the Australian Parliament. It outlines what content is covered in the lesson, and what preparation is required to use this immersive learning strategy in a classroom.

Duration: 14 min 33 sec

Read the transcript.

Preparing to make a law

Topic for debate

  1. Choose an issue relevant to your students and to the curriculum, such as the amount of homework students are required to do. If you'd like to see the kinds of issues the Parliament has been discussing recently, look at News from our Parliament. If you're stuck for ideas, use one of our scripts in the toolkit.
  2. With students, develop a plan to address the issue, for example, to ban homework. This plan will be your bill.
  3. Write the name of the bill and its purpose on page one of the law-making script template, available in the toolkit. For example, The No Homework Bill: A Bill for an Act to ban homework in all Australian schools.

Teams

Divide the class into government, opposition, minor parties and independents.

For the current composition of the House of Representatives, visit Parliamentary statistics

  • Government—more than half the students
  • Minor party members and independents—two to three students
  • Opposition—remaining students.

From the government, select:

  • a Prime Minister
  • a minister for the relevant portfolio to introduce the bill—for example, the Minister for Education
  • a Party Whip—team manager.

From the opposition, select:

  • a Leader of the Opposition
  • a shadow minister for the same portfolio who will respond to the minister's speech
  • a Party Whip—team manager.

The leaders can be elected by their teams or you can choose.

Write speeches (optional)

You may want to give your students time to write speeches.

  • Government members will support the bill
  • Opposition members will disagree with the bill
  • Independents and minor party members can choose to support, oppose or suggest changes to the bill.

If you plan on using the same bill to debate in the House of Representatives and the Senate, you may choose to allow some students to make speeches in the House of Representatives and some in the Senate.

Select other roles

These students may write speeches, but will not deliver them.

When selecting these roles, ensure the government still has a majority.

Set up room

Turn the classroom into the House of Representatives by arranging chairs and tables into a horseshoe shape as indicated by the seating plan in the toolkit.

Making a law

You can follow this process in the master script.

  1. The Clerk rings the bell and instructs the members to stand.
  2. The Serjeant-at-Arms leads the Speaker into the House, carrying the Mace on their right shoulder.
  3. The Serjeant-at-Arms announces the Speaker, places the Mace on the table and moves to their seat.
  4. The Speaker tells everyone to sit down and begins the session.
  5. The Clerk stands and reads the rules of the House and the title of the bill (first reading).

The debate

  1. The minister introduces the bill and the shadow minister responds to the bill.
  2. The Speaker selects members to make speeches, alternating between government and non-government members.

Voting on the bill

  1. When the debate is finished, the Speaker announces the vote. The independents and minor party members choose a side.
  2. The whips count the number of people on their side and tell the Speaker. The Speaker declares the result.

Passing the bill

  1. The Clerk reads the title of the bill.
  2. The Speaker adjourns the House.
  3. The Serjeant-at-Arms takes the mace and leads the Speaker from the House.

What happened?

  1. Discuss with the class what happened in your House of Representatives. For example, did the bill pass? Why?
  2. Discuss what other steps the bill needs to go through to become a law.

Reflection

After the debate, explore the following questions with your students:

  1. Usually the government has a majority in the House of Representatives and will win a vote on a bill. Why then is it important for the government, opposition, minor party members and independents to participate in the debate? For example, to represent their electorates and the Australian people, to publicly scrutinise the bill, to suggest amendments.
  2. Parliamentary debates are public, they are broadcast on television, radio, and the Internet, they are recorded in the Hansard and reported on in the media. Why? How would our country be different if Parliament made laws in secret? For example, because bills are debated in Parliament the public can learn:
    • about the advantages and disadvantages of the bill
    • what the parties and independents think about the bill
    • how their member of Parliament is representing them.
  3. Why do we need laws in Australia? For example, laws are formal rules which society uses to define how people and organisations are expected to behave.
  4. Why is it important for the Australian people to choose members of Parliament to make decisions? What qualities would you look for in a representative? For example, they make decisions for everyone, so it's fair for the people to have a say. The people can choose members who will work hard to represent their interests.
  5. How might members of the public get involved in the democratic process? Why would they want to? For example, people can pay attention to what is happening in the Parliament, contact their representatives, protest, join a political party or community group.