Glossary


A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W

A

accountable — to be called on to explain an individual's actions. Members are accountable to the Assembly for the actions they take while in office.

act — a law made by parliament.

adjourn — to postpone to a later time.

adjournment debate — a debate at the end of each sitting day when members may make speeches on any subject.

amendment — an alteration (to a bill or motion).

amending bill — a bill that amends an existing Act.

appropriation bill — a bill which, if passed, will allow the government to spend money it has gathered from the community through taxes, rates and charges: The appropriation bill is usually introduced into the Assembly in June each year (see estimates).

Assembly business — business before the parliament that relates to the Assembly’s committees, subordinate legislation and how the Assembly conducts its proceedings.

ayes — the votes of members who vote “yes”.

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B

backbench — members who are neither ministers or shadow ministers; seats in the chamber where members who are not ministers or shadow ministers sit.

balance of power — the ability of one person or party to decide the issue by the way they vote. Distribution of power in a parliament where neither the government, nor the opposition, have enough numbers in their own right to win a vote.

bar — a barrier at the entrance to the floor of the chamber, beyond which only members can go.

bells — the ringing of the bells throughout the Assembly building calls members to the chamber at the beginning of a sitting; for a vote (a division); or because there are not enough members present (lack of a quorum).

bicameral — having two chambers or houses; the Federal parliament is a bicameral parliament, but the Legislative Assembly, with only one chamber, is a unicameral parliament.

bill — a proposal for a new law which has been presented to parliament (see also amending bill).

bring down the budget — to place a plan before parliament each year showing what money the government expects to receive and how the government wants to spend it.

budget — proposals to allow the government to spend or raise money. The appropriation bill is introduced into the Assembly in June each year.

by leave — seeking permission of every member present in the chamber and not provided for in the standing orders, e.g. to present a bill, move a motion, address the Assembly.

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C

candidate — a person standing for election.

Cabinet — group of ministers in a government.

casual vacancy — vacancy arising from the resignation, retirement or death of a member during the term of an Assembly.

censure motion — a motion moved in the Assembly to express disapproval of a minister, a member, or the government.

chair — the seat in which the presiding officer (Speaker) sits in the chamber; a member who manages a committee.

chamber — the meeting room of a house of parliament.

Chief minister — the leader of the government in the ACT (and the Northern Territory). In the states, the leader is the premier and the federal leader is the prime minister.

Clerk — the senior-most permanent official in the Assembly. The sits in front of the Speaker in the chamber and provides procedural advice to members and announces the business of the Assembly. The Clerk is also responsible for the administration of the Assembly.

code of conduct — agreement on rules of behaviour for members.

cognate debate — a debate in which two or more related matters are discussed at the same time, although questions are voted on separately.

committee — a small group of members usually drawn from all parties which examines, reports on, and make recommendations about a particular subject.

committee hearing — a public or private meeting of a committee, where witnesses are invited to speak, to provide clarity and better the inquiry.

confidence motion — (see no confidence motion).

conscience vote — the relaxation of any requirements that political parties normally impose on their members to vote in a particular way, a conscience vote is based on a member's own judgements and beliefs.

constituent — a person who votes or lives in an electoral area represented by members of the Assembly.

constitution — the basic principles and laws of a nation, state or territory.

continuing resolution — a decision made by the Assembly which remains in effect until it is amended or overturned, available in the standing orders of the Assembly.

crossbench — one of a set of seats for members who belong to neither the government nor the opposition parties; seats for minor parties and independents.

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D

daily program — a program or agenda which shows the items of business that the Assembly is expected to deal with on a particular day: the Assembly's daily program is also known as the ‘Blue’.

debate — a discussion in the Legislative Assembly by members presenting differing views and arguments before a vote is held.

declaration of poll — the official announcement of election results.

delegated legislation — regulations, orders, or rules made under an Act of Parliament by the Executive or a delegate (also called subordinate legislation).

deliberative vote — the ordinary vote of a member of parliament: The Speaker of the Assembly has a deliberative vote, not a casting vote as is often the rule in other parliaments.

democracy — the system of government where people vote to have a say in who governs them. Derived from the Greek words demos (people) and kratos (power).

disallowance motion — a motion to disallow subordinate or delegated legislation.

division (vote) — the separation of members into two groups, for and against, so their votes can be counted.

‘Dorothy Dix' question or a 'Dorothy Dixer’ — a question asked by a government backbench member so a minister can highlight government achievements.

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E

electorate — the electoral division (geographic area) that a member of the Assembly represents.

enact — to place on the ACT Legislation Register so that the law can operate.

estimates — the money that the government thinks will be needed to run the works and services for the year: details of estimates are in the budget papers, which are tabled with the annual appropriation bill in the Assembly.

Executive — the Executive is made up of the Chief Minister and minsters, and responsible for implementing and administering laws, making policy and directing government operations. The executive is accountable to the parliament for the decisions it makes and its administration more generally.

executive business — business which is introduced by a minister.

explanatory memorandum — a document that explains the purpose and details of a bill and the proposed effect of each clause in plain language.

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F

floor of the Assembly — the enclosed area containing members' seats in the chamber (also referred to as the floor of the chamber).

front bench — those members of parliament who are ministers or shadow ministers; the seats in the chamber where ministers or shadow minister sit.

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G

government — formed by the largest party in the Assembly.

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H

Hansard — official transcript of debates in the Assembly (chamber and committee proceedings).

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I

in order — in accordance with the rules, in a correct form or style, as required by standing orders.

interjection — a remark made to interrupt or respond to a point during a speech or debate.

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J

judiciary — the authority responsible for interpreting laws.

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L

Leader of the opposition — leader of the second largest party in the Assembly.

legislature — law-making body of a country, state or territory. The Legislative Assembly is the legislature of the ACT.

lobbyist — any person, company or organisation who conducts lobbying activities on behalf of a third party, or whose employees or other personnel conduct lobbying activities on behalf of a third party.

long title — the full title of a bill that sets out briefly describes its purpose or scope; The Clerk reads out the long title when the bill is first introduced into the chamber (see also short title).

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M

mace — a ceremonial staff used as the symbol of authority of the Assembly and its Speaker.

Manager of (Government or Opposition) Business — the member responsible for the coordinating business in the chamber.

matter of public importance — a general community issue that is suggested by a member, chosen by random draw by the Speaker and discussed in the chamber on a sitting day.

member — person elected and sworn in to represent the people of the ACT.

minister — a member of the Assembly appointed by the Chief Minister and responsible for a government portfolio e.g. the Minister of Police.

ministerial statement — a statement made by a minister, often used to announce the government’s policies and decisions.

minority government — a government formed by a party or coalition of parties does not have a majority in its own right.

MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly) — a person elected to the Legislative Assembly.

motion — a proposal put forward in the Assembly by a member to be considered, debated and voted on.

move — to make a formal proposal for the Assembly to consider.

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N

name — to discipline a member for breaking the rules of the chamber. The Speaker is responsible for disciplining members.

no confidence — a means by which members express dissatisfaction with the performance of a government or a minister, a successful no confidence motion may lead to the resignation of the government or minister.

noes — the votes of members who vote no.

notice of motion — an announcement of intention to put forward a motion or present a bill for consideration.

notice paper — the document issued each sitting day which lists all business outstanding before the Assembly and questions on notice.

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O

Office of the Legislative Assembly — provides procedural and administrative advice and support to the Assembly and its committees and is headed by the Clerk.

Officer of the Legislative Assembly — keeps the government accountable in a certain area such as elections, corruptions or interacting with the public. They are independent of the government, appointed by the Speaker and report to the Assembly through the Speaker rather than to a government minister.

opposition — the second largest party in the Assembly whose role is to keep the government accountable.

order — call for Members to keep to the rules of debate set out by standing orders; a direction of the Assembly to its members, committees, or officers.

order of the day an item of business that the Assembly has set down for discussion on a particular day, usually the next day of sitting.

out of order — not in accordance with the standing orders.

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P

pair — an arrangement between parties whereby two members from opposing sides do not vote on a particular occasion, so that both can be absent without affecting the result of the vote.

Parliamentary Counsel’s Office — office of legal staff who draft and publish laws.

parliamentary privilege — legal immunity that allows the Assembly to effectively carry out its functions. One of the most recognised form of privilege is the freedom of speech, which protects a member from having their statements, made in the course of parliamentary proceedings, from being impeached in a court of law.

parliamentary procedure — rules for and methods of carrying out the business of a parliament.

personal explanation — a short statement made by a member who feels they have been misrepresented, to present their own account of the matter.

petition — a document presented to a parliament by a person or group of people asking for action on a matter.

point of order — a question as to whether proceedings in a meeting are in accord with the standing orders.

political party — an organisation that aims to have its members elected to parliament so it can achieve particular public policy objectives.

portfolio — area of responsibility of a minister or shadow minister.

presiding officer — a member who is elected to be in charge of the business, proceedings and administration of a house of parliament. In the Legislative Assembly the presiding officer is called the Speaker.

private member — a member of parliament who is not a minister.

private members business — business which is introduced by a member who is not a minister.

proceedings — the formal actions and decisions of a parliament.

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Q

question on notice — a written question asked of a minister that is answered in writing.

question time — a period of time on a sitting day in which ministers are asked questions about their portfolio responsibilities by other members.

question without notice — a question asked of a minister where the minister usually has no warning of the content of the question, in the chamber or committee hearings.

quorum — a minimum number of people that have to be present for the Assembly or a committee to be able to conduct business and make decisions.

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R

regulation — a law made under the authority of an Act of parliament.

resolution — a formal decision by a legislative body.

royal assent — where the Govenor (in the case of the states) or the Govenor-General (in the case of the Commonwealth) signs a bill making it an Act. In the ACT, royal assent is not required for a bill to become an Act, it is simply published on the ACT Legislation Register by Parliamentary Counsel.

ruling — a formal decision made by the Speaker usually on a matter of procedure in the Assembly.

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S

separation of powers — division of power between three branches of government; the legislature, the executive and the judiciary.

Serjeant-at-Arms — officer responsible for carrying out the orders of the Assembly and carrier of the mace.

shadow minister — an opposition member who is assigned a portfolio, matching the responsibility of a minister, to ensure the accountability of the minister and the government.

short title (of a bill or Act) — the name of a bill or Act by which it is commonly known.

sittings — meetings of a parliament.

Speaker — the member who is elected as its presiding officer.

standing orders — the rules that govern the conduct of business in a parliament.

submission (to a committee) — a representation to a committee by an individual or a group expressing their views in relation to a topic under inquiry.

subordinate legislation — regulations, orders or rules made under an Act of Parliament by the Executive or a delegate (also called delegated legislation).

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T

table — to present a document or paper to a parliament that becomes part of the parliamentary records.

territory — an area (political subdivision) that does not have the full rights of a state.

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U

unicameral — consisting of one chamber or house. The ACT, Northern Territory and Queensland parliaments are all unicameral.

unparliamentary language — words used during debate which the Speaker judges to be offensive or disorderly, and which are usually required to be withdrawn.

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V

voices, on the — a decision reached by the speaker ruling on the majority of voices, either supporting (ayes) or disagreeing (noes) in a vote. If any member disagrees with the decision a division will be called.

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W

Westminster — a system of government originating in Britain, the main features of which are a head of state who is not the head of government, and an executive drawn from and directly responsible to the parliament.

whip — a member of a political party who is responsible for organising members of their party to take part in debates and votes, and who helps to arrange parliamentary business.

witness — a person giving evidence to a parliamentary committee.

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