Operation of the legislature

Parliament and MPR [PDF 2.73Mb, 18 pages]

Making laws (legislating) is one of the primary functions of both Parliament and the DPR (People’s Representative Chamber (Dewan Perwaiklan Rakyat)). In Indonesia this function is shared between the President and the DPR. Although the Indonesian parliament comprises two chambers – the DPR and DPD – only the DPR has a role in law-making. The DPD (Regional Representative Council (Dewan Perwakilan Daerah)) cannot introduce bills (proposed laws) or vote on bills. It can, however, propose, debate and make recommendations to the DPR on bills relating to regional issues.

In the Australian Parliament a bill (proposed law) must pass through both houses in identical form before it becomes law. In each of the chambers the bill is debated and voted on by the whole chamber. In the DPR most of the work and debate on a bill happens in commissions (committees) of small groups of DPR members, away from the public gaze. Votes are rarely taken in the DPR; most decisions are made by consensus. That is, bills are passed by all members either agreeing to support the bill or to not oppose the bill. Musyawarah mufakat (consensus through the deliberation of representatives) is highly valued in the Indonesian political system and is the basis for the process of making laws.

The following table provides an overview of the distinguishing features of both nations’ legislatures.



  • The House of Representatives has 151 members. Each member represents an electorate.
  • The Senate has 76 senators. Each state is represented by 12 senators, and the Northern Territory and ACT are represented by two senators each.
  • The number of members of the House of Representatives is as close as practicable to twice the number of Senators.


  • The MPR is comprised of two chambers:
    • DPR (People’s Representative Chamber) has 560 members.
    • DPD (Regional Representative Chamber) has 132 members – four for each of the 33 provinces.
  • The number of DPD members is limited to one-third of the total members of the DPR.


  • Bills are usually introduced by a minister (government bills) in the House of Representatives. Bills can also be introduced in the Senate.
  • A small number of bills are introduced by other members of Parliament (private member bills), although few become law.
  • Bills must be introduced, debated and agreed to by both houses.
  • Bills may be changed (amended) by both the House of Representatives and the Senate, although changes must be agreed to by both houses to become law.
  • There are some restrictions on the types of bills that can be introduced by private members or in the Senate; and on the amendments the Senate can make to money (budget) bills.


  • The DPD cannot introduce or vote on bills. It is advisory only.
  • The 1945 Constitution states that laws are made by ‘joint agreement’ between the President and the DPR.
  • Bills can be introduced in the DPR by a member of the DPR with the support of at least 10 other members. However, most bills are introduced by the executive (government bills).
  • Bills are sent to a DPR commission (committee) which is responsible for its passage through the DPR. The members of the commission, who represent each party in the DPR, and the relevant minister meet to discuss the bill.
  • The bill may be changed (amended) so the commission and minister can reach agreement on the bill.
  • When the members of the commission and minister reach agreement on the bill it is presented to the full DPR. A report on the work of the commission is read to the house. Because the bill has already been agreed to by the parties in the DPR and the executive (in the commission), the bill will almost certainly be agreed to by the full DPR.


  • Bills may be referred to committees for further scrutiny and recommendations.
  • Both houses use committees to investigate bills and other issues in more detail than is possible in the chamber. In practice, Senate committees look into more bills than House committees.
  • Each committee oversees a specific policy area or issue, such as the Joint Standing Committee on Migration.


  • The committees of the DPR are called commissions.
  • Every bill is referred to a commission for study and development before being presented to the DPR.
  • The 11 commissions oversee specific policy areas. Special commissions can be formed to investigate a particular issue, for example the Commission to Eradicate the Crime of Corruption.
  • Commissions include representatives of all parties (factions) in the DPR. The decisions made by these members are accepted by all the party members in the DPR, meaning that when agreement has been reached on a bill in a commission, it will almost certainly be accepted by the whole DPR.


  • When a bill has been passed by the Parliament, it is presented to the Governor-General for signing into law. This final step in the process of establishing an Act of Parliament, or law, is known as ‘Royal Assent’.
  • The Governor-General, on the advice of the government, may request that the Parliament amend (change) a bill, but this is rare.


  • When a bill has been passed by the DPR, it is presented to the President for signing into law.
  • The President may refuse to sign a bill but after 30 days it automatically becomes law.
  • To block the passage of a bill the President may refuse to name a minister to participate in negotiations over the bill, or delay those negotiations.
  • If no agreement can be reached on a bill between the DPR and executive, the bill cannot be reintroduced during the term of the DPR.

In both systems:

  • any member of Parliament or DPR may introduce a bill, although in the DPR the bill must have support from other members.
  • changes can be made to bills.
  • members of Parliament and DPR serve on committees/commissions to conduct detailed work – including scrutinising bills and investigating current issues – before making detailed recommendations.

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