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Teaching

Amending a law: House of Representatives

Role-play lesson plan – Amending a law: House of Representatives [PDF 634kb, 6 pages]

In Parliament, an amendment is a change to a bill. It allows for a bill to be improved or altered as it progresses through the Parliament. This lesson involves a role-play which demonstrates how amendments to bills are introduced, debated and voted on in the House of Representatives.

NOTE: Your class should only undertake this amendment role-play if they passed the bill during their Law-making: House of Representatives role-play. If the bill failed in the law-making role-play it cannot be amended.

Outcomes

By participating in this role-play, students will:

  • research and debate current issues
  • think critically and find solutions to problems
  • prepare and deliver public speeches
  • explore the process of law-making
  • explore the concept of parliamentary scrutiny
  • explore the concept of representation.

Focus questions

Generate discussion about the role-play by exploring some of the following questions with your students:

Who do the members of the House of Representatives represent?
Each member represents an electorate. All 150 members represent the entire Australian population.

What was said about this bill in the law-making debate?
You will need to refer to any work you did on the previous law-making debate.

What steps did the bill go through in the law-making debate?
The bill was introduced into the House of Representatives, debated and then voted on. The bill was agreed to at the vote, which means that it may now be amended.

Why would you change a bill in the Parliament?
To improve the bill, so that it works better as a law for Australia.

Setting the scene for the role-play

Have students reflect on the previous law-making role-play through class discussion, or revisit any work that you may have set about the previous debate. It is important that students understand that this role-play is a continuation of the process that they started in the law-making role-play. You may wish to refer to the 'setting the scene' section of the Law-making: House of Representatives role-play lesson plan to prepare your students.

Main activity: Conducting an amendment role-play

Scripts

The PEO scripts provide a framework for the role-play. The scripts include specific roles that can be assigned to students, and indicate what they have to do and say. You can download a full script or a template, which allows you to write your own script, from the Toolkit (to the right).

Choosing an amendment (change to the bill)

Before the role-play can start, your students will need to have at least one idea for an amendment. Amendments are changes to a bill to improve it. However, amendments cannot change the overall intention of the bill. For example, the No Homework bill cannot be amended to allow homework to be set one day a week because then the bill would no longer ban homework.

Have your class think about the bill they debated in the law-making role-play. Allow your students to come up with amendments using the following options:

  • Brainstorm ideas with the class.
  • Ask each team and the Independents to come up with their own amendments.
  • Use amendment ideas suggested during the law-making debates.

When students have decided on their amendments they can write them as formal documents using the Amendment Template. This can be downloaded from the Toolkit (to the right).

The class then meet in their teams to decide if their group will support or oppose the amendment. Students playing the role of Independents will need to decide individually if they will support or oppose the amendment. Students can then write short speeches giving reasons for their support or opposition.

Set-up

Transform the classroom into a chamber by arranging chairs and tables into a horseshoe shape as indicated by the seating plan. The seating plan, as well as diagrams of the chamber, can be downloaded from the Toolkit (to the right).

Props and costumes

The Clerk will need a bell. You may like to use other props, such as a Mace for the Serjeant-at-Arms and gowns for the Speaker and Clerks. Instructions for making these are in the Toolkit.

Getting into role

NOTE: The students should remain in the roles they were assigned in the previous law-making role-play.

  • Divide the class into government, opposition, minor parties and Independents. Refer to Parliament NOW for current numbers in the chambers. Use these numbers to gain the right proportions for your parliament.
  • Select a Speaker – this is a non-debating role and is generally someone from the government who can exercise authority in the room.
  • Select a Clerk (pronounced 'Clark') and Serjeant-at-Arms – these are parliamentary officers who do not debate or vote. A teacher may take the role of Deputy Clerk. This role does not require active participation, but puts the teacher in a central position in the room so they can assist with the running of the role-play.
  • Elect party leaders – the government elects the Prime Minister and the opposition elects the Leader of the Opposition.
  • Select a member for each amendment you wish to introduce.
  • Choose party whips (managers) to count the vote at the end of the debate.

Starting the role-play

  1. The Clerk rings the bell and tells the members to stand.
  2. The Serjeant-at-Arms leads the Speaker into the chamber, 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 chamber.
  6. A member introduces an amendment.
  7. The Speaker selects members to make speeches, alternating between the government, opposition, minor parties and Independents. Members make their speeches in turn.

Voting on the amendment

  1. When the debate is finished, the Speaker leads a 'vote on the voices' (uncounted vote) before declaring the vote.
  2. If the opposition lose the vote on the voices, the opposition whip may call for a division (formal counted vote) and the Clerk rings the bell. The Speaker conducts the division with help from the whips and then declares the vote.

Division vote

  1. If the majority of votes are for the amendment it is agreed to.
  2. If the majority of votes are against the amendment the amendment is defeated.
  3. If the vote is a tie the Speaker may vote, which will result in the amendment either being agreed to or defeated. If the Speaker chooses not to vote, the amendment is defeated.

NOTE: Your class may have more amendments on this bill that they want to consider. If so, do not go to the next step yet. Instead, go back to step 6 and have the Clerk introduce the next amendment in the same way the first amendment was introduced. Repeat the process for as many amendments as you wish.

Adjournment

  1. The Speaker adjourns the House.
  2. The Serjeant-at-Arms leads the Speaker from the chamber, holding the Mace.

Debrief

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

Where would members of parliament get ideas for amendments?
They could talk to their team members, people in their electorate and anyone else in Australia who may be affected by the bill.

Who would suggest amendments to bills?
Any member may suggest amendments, but it is often opposition members, minor party members or Independents. Unlike government members, they may not have worked on the bill before it was presented to the Parliament.

Extension activities

Senate

After a bill has passed through the House of Representatives it progresses to the Senate where it is also debated and voted on, and possibly amended. You might like to conduct a role-play that follows the progress of a bill through the Senate. To do this, check out the Law-making: Senate role-play lesson plan.

Committees

Committees investigate issues and bills in more detail than is possible in the chamber. The committee process helps parliamentarians become informed by gathering information from government departments, experts in the field, lobby groups and interested citizens. Committees often make recommendations or provide ideas which form the basis for amendments. You might like to conduct a role-play of a committee. To do this, check out the Committee role-play lesson plan.

Question Time

During Question Time in the Parliament, the Prime Minister and ministers are called upon to explain government decisions and actions. The Question Time role-play lesson plans for the House of Representatives and Senate will help students understand the purpose of Question Time, in particular, how it works to scrutinise (closely examine) the government.

Diagrams

Photos