Fact Sheet – Amendments [PDF 174kb, 1 page]

Amending a bill

In Parliament, an amendment is a change to a bill (a proposed law). Amendments allow for bills to be improved or altered as they progress through the Parliament.

In the same way that all bills must be discussed and voted on in the Parliament, amendments must also be discussed and voted on. Amendments can be introduced in either the House of Representatives or the Senate, and must be agreed to by both chambers.

The process of amending a bill

Any member of parliament can suggest an amendment to a bill. This is called 'moving an amendment'. The amendment is submitted in writing to the Clerk of the chamber. The Clerk then prints and distributes copies so that everyone in the chamber can read the exact words of the amendment. Members of parliament can then decide to support or oppose the amendment when it is time to vote.

Consideration in detail and committee of the whole

Changes to bills are often suggested during the law-making process. The most common time for moving amendments to bills is during the consideration in detail stage in the House of Representatives, or committee of the whole in the Senate. Amendments to long and complicated bills may be debated for many hours or days. During consideration in detail, members in the House of Representatives may speak for five minutes about an amendment. Senators may speak for 15 minutes during committee of the whole. In both cases, members of parliament may speak more than once.

Restrictions on amending bills

According to the Australian Constitution, the Senate cannot amend money or taxation bills. It may only request that the House of Representatives amend such bills.

Amending an Act

An Act (existing law) can be amended to remove a perceived fault, correct a problem or omission, or to simply update it.

If an Act is to be amended, an amendment bill must be introduced into the Parliament. If the amendment bill is passed, the title of the Act then includes the word 'amendment' – for example, the Clean Energy Legislation Amendment Act 2012.

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