A Bill is a proposed Act that has been introduced into Parliament. A Bill becomes an Act when it is assented to by the Governor after passing through both Houses of Parliament.
Generally, an Act will either be a principal ('standalone') piece of legislation dealing with all matters relating to a particular government policy, or it will amend other Acts.
An Act may come into operation as soon as it is assented to or at a later date.
The South Australian Parliament has two Houses, the House of Assembly and the Legislative Council.
When a member of Parliament introduces a Bill to Parliament they will introduce it to the House of which they are a member.
Most Bills can be introduced by any member of the Parliament. However, Bills that propose changes to the spending of government money or would impose taxes ('Money Bills)' can only be introduced by a government Minister in the House of Assembly.
Once introduced, the general stages of a Bill’s consideration by a House are:
- first reading: the introduction of a Bill
- second reading: consideration of the general principles and purposes of a Bill
- committee stage: when a Bill may be considered in detail and may be amended
- third reading: final consideration of the Bill.
If a Bill successfully completes these stages in one House, it will then be received and considered by the second House.
If one House disagrees with a Bill that has been passed by the other it may lead to a 'deadlock'. In these situations negotiations often take place and the Bill may be referred to a conference of managers appointed by the Houses. If a compromise cannot be reached the Bill will lapse.
If both Houses agree to a Bill it is sent to the Governor for assent and becomes law. This process is known as "royal assent" because assent is given by the Governor on behalf of the Queen.
A Bill is confidential until it is introduced into Parliament, but the Minister or member proposing the Bill may release it to the public for consultation before introducing it to Parliament.
An Act of Parliament is a Bill that has been enacted by Parliament and assented to by the Governor.
Acts contain statements and rules (‘provisions’) designed to give effect to a particular policy. What is achieved by an Act depends on the way its provisions are interpreted by person(s) administering the Act and the courts.
Historically, some SA Acts were considered to be 'of limited application' and left out of reprints and consolidations of South Australian legislation.
Since 2003 all South Australian Acts have been treated as public documents and are included in a program of legislation revision and publication.
Each Act generally deals with all matters of importance for the implementation of a particular policy. Matters of detail or likely to experience frequent change are normally dealt with in legislative instruments.
Some Acts delegate the power to make laws to the executive branch of the government or, occasionally, another authority.
These laws are known as legislative instruments (or 'subordinate legislation') and include:
- certain policies
- notices made by the Governor.
Legislative instruments made by the Governor must be made with the advice and consent of Executive Council.
The Executive Council is the body through which the Government formally advises the Governor in the exercise of most of their powers. Under the Constitution Act 1934 all Ministers are members of the Executive Council.
See Legislative instruments (subordinate legislation) for more information.
There are 3 general methods for commencing an Act:
- If the Act does not have a commencement provision it will come into operation on the day on which it is assented to.
- The Act may contain a commencement provision setting out a specified day or time when the Act (or part of the Act) will come into operation.
- The Act may contain a commencement provision stating that the Act (or part of the Act) comes into operation on a day to be fixed by proclamation. A commencement proclamation may:
- fix different days or times for different provisions of the Act to come into operation
- suspend the operation of specified provisions of the Act until a day or time or days or times to be fixed by subsequent proclamation or proclamations.
A date fixed by proclamation may be delayed by a subsequent proclamation. If a proclamation is not made before the second anniversary of the date on which an Act enacted after 16 April 1992 was assented to, the Act will come into operation on that anniversary.
It is not uncommon for commencement provisions to use a combination of the above methods.
When an Act comes into operation on a particular day, it will be taken to have come into operation as from 12 o'clock midnight of the preceding day.
Most Acts of Parliament are "committed" to a Minister. The Minister to whom an Act is committed is responsible for the administration of that Act and any legislative instruments made under it.
Acts are committed to Ministers by proclamations made under the Administrative Arrangements Act 1994.
See the list of Acts committed to Ministers.