GLOSSARY OF TERMS
Absolute Majority: sometimes referred to as a constitutional majority. This is a majority of the whole number of members in the chamber who are eligible to vote. To achieve an absolute majority in the 34 seat Legislative Council the concurrence of at least 18 members is necessary while 29 votes out of 57 need to be secured in the Legislative Assembly.
Act: a law made by Parliament.
Affirmation of Allegiance: A pledge by members of Parliament to faithfully serve the Queen of Western Australia.
Alternative Vote: the electoral formula used to elect members to the Legislative Assembly. The State is divided into 57 electoral regions, each returning 1 member. To gain election, a candidate needs to attain more than 50 percent of the formal vote in the electoral district they are contesting. Most Australian’s refer to this method of voting as ‘preferential voting’.
Australia Acts 1986: two near identical Acts passed by each of the Commonwealth and the United Kingdom Parliaments. These Acts formalise the independence of the Parliaments of the Australian States from the British political and legal system.
Australian Constitution Act 1850: An Act of the British Parliament which authorised the Australian colonies to petition for self-government upon fulfillment of certain requirements.
Bicameral Parliament: refers to a legislature consisting of two separate law making chambers, typically a upper house and a lower house.
Bill: a proposed law that has yet to receive parliamentary approval and Royal Assent.
Budget: the term commonly used to describe the Government’s statement of spending and receipts.
Cabinet: a committee of senior government Ministers who meet regularly to discuss important government business.
Casting Vote: a vote which determines the outcome of a matter when the ballot is tied.
Casual Vacancy: refers to a situation whereby a seat becomes available in Parliament due to the death, resignation or disqualification of an elected member.
Chairman of the Committees: the member who presides over the Committee of the Whole house. This particular form of committee is sometimes convened to discuss the contents of a contentious Bill in close detail.
Chief Clerk: a non-elected official responsible for the general administration of each house of Parliament. Each of the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council has such an officer. One of the most important roles of the Chief Clerk is to advise the presiding officer and members of their chamber on procedural matters.
Common Law: that body of judge-made law which originated in English courts and which was subsequently adopted and developed by the Australian system of courts, including Western Australia.
Constitution: a document intended to set down the institutions of Government so as to limit its powers. Western Australia’s principal constitutional arrangements are set down in two separate but related Acts, the Constitution Act 1889 and the Constitution Act Amendment Act 1899.
Consolidate: to unite, or bring together, the various amendments and or additions made to an Act into a single body of legislation. Parliament is required to pass new legislation to bring this about.
Consolidated Fund: the fund into which all monies raised and received by the government is placed.
Convention: the unwritten rules that govern the operation of the formal constitutionals statute.
Commonwealth Constitution: an Act of both the British and Commonwealth Parliaments which sets down the rules, powers and responsibilities of the Commonwealth Government. This document came into effect in 1901.
Colony: refers to the State of Western Australia prior to federation in 1901 and before its legal and political separation from the United Kingdom.
Crown: a term that refers to the reigning King or Queen vested with formal executive power.
Deputy Speaker: a person who assumes the duties of the Speaker when the presiding officer in unable to attend to duties.
Electoral Act 1907: an Act of the Western Australian Parliament which describes the conduct of state elections.
Electoral List: an inventory of names of those people eligible to vote at elections.
Electoral Registrars: refers to those persons who oversee all aspects of the administration of elections.
Enact: to pass a Bill into a law.
Executive: in this context, refers to that arm of government responsible for administering or carrying out the law and public policies. In Western Australia, executive power is formally vested in the Queen and the Governor although, in practice, is exercised by a popularly elected Government.
Executive Council: a body established to advise the Governor on matters in relation to the government of the state. The Governor and at least two Government Ministers typically attend these meetings.
Government Gazette of Western Australia: formerly the Western Australian Gazette. A regular publication containing legal notices with information about government appointments, decisions and actions, as well as other matters.
Government of the Day: the political party or coalition of parties with a majority of members represented in the Legislative Assembly.
Governor: the Queen’s official representative in Western Australia.
House of Commons: the lower house of Parliament in the United Kingdom.
Immunities, Privileges and Powers: in this context, refers to the ‘special’ powers and rights granted to members whilst in Parliament.
Issue Writ: a legal order that an election be held.
Judge: a person who has the authority to adjudicate on legal matters.
Law: a Bill which has been approved by Parliament, received royal assent and has been enacted.
Legislative Assembly: the name given to the lower house of the Western Australian Parliament. It is commonly referred to as the ‘house of government’ owing to the convention that the political party or group with majority support in the Legislative Assembly forms government. The majority of all new proposed legislation originates in this chamber.
Legislative Council: the name given to the upper house of the Western Australian Parliament. It is commonly referred to as the ‘house of review’ because of its role in scrutinising the policies and actions of government.
Letters Patent: official instructions sent to the Governor from the Queen.
Local Government: often referred to as the third tier of government. Municipal and shore government are mostly responsible for the provisions and maintenance of community services and facilities such as parks, the collection of refuse and the issuing of building permits. There are presently 142 local councils in Western Australia.
Majority: the support of more than half of the members assembled in the relevant chamber during a division (provided a quorum has been attained).
Manner and Form: a phrase referring to special procedures inserted into a constitution so as to limit the capacity of Parliament to alter its provisions by ordinary legislative means. In the case of the Western Australian Constitution, these can be found in section 71 of the Constitution Act 1889.
Oath of Allegiance: a pledge by members of Parliament to faithfully serve the Queen of Australia and which makes specific reference to God.
Office of Profit under the Crown: refers to government employment. The origins of this phrase date back to 18th century England and sought to ensure that that the Crown did not use its wealth to coerce or influence the actions of members in Parliament. As a general rule, the only persons permitted to hold an office under the Crown whilst serving in Parliament are Government Ministers.
Officers Liable to Retire on Political Grounds: refers to Minister of the Government.
Parliament: the legislative, or law making, arm of government. In Western Australia, this consists of the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council.
Parliamentary Counsel: legal officers who are employed by the Parliament responsible for drafting new Bills and amendments to existing statutes.
Parliamentary Secretary: an honorary Minister who assists one or more Ministers in the performance of his or her duties.
Preamble: a statement found at the beginning of legislation that provides information relating to the reasons for the existence of that particular Act.
Premier: the person who leads the political party or group of parties that commands majority support in the Legislative Assembly.
Presiding Officer: is the term used to describe that person who chairs meetings of the Parliament. In the Legislative Council this person is referred to as the Speaker; in the Legislative Assembly the President.
Proportional Representation: the system of voting used to elect members to the Legislative Council in which the state is divided into 6 regions, four electing 5 members and two electing 7 members. In those regions which elect 7 members, winning candidates need to achieve approximately 12.5 percent of the formal vote whereas in 5 member regions a candidate must attain 16.67 percent of the formal vote.
Prorogue: to discontinue a session of Parliament
Queen: the head of government in Western Australia.
Referendum: a form of election whereby a proposal or idea is put to the people to decide.
Reprint: to print an up to date version of an existing Act with all the amendments worked through it. Unlike a consolidation, a reprint does not require Parliament to pass a new Act to undertake this procedure. A reprint is a routine measure typically performed by Parliamentary Counsel.
Repugnant: in this context, legislation which is contrary to the terms of an existing Act or Acts of Parliament.
Responsible Government: this term carries a number of meanings. It is sometimes used to describe a system of government in which all publicly elected officers of Parliament – Ministers, the Premier/Prime Minister and Members – are responsible to the public via the election process. The term also refers to a system of government whereby the ruling governing party or coalition is dependent upon majority support of members in the lower house in order to remain in office between elections. In some contexts, the phrase is used interchangeably with the term self-government.
Royal Assent: the approval given by the Queen to a Bill passed by Parliament. The Queen’s representative, the Governor, normally undertakes this function.
Savings Clause: a provision that is designed to narrow the effect of the operation of a section of an Act so as to preserve some existing legal rule.
Schedule V: is located in the Constitution Act Amendment Act 1899 and is a list of persons, agencies and institutions subject to provisions contained within the constitution.
Treasurer: the Minister in charge of the economic and financial administration of the state.
Vote of no confidence: a motion moved in either the Legislative Assembly or the Legislative Council that it no longer supports the Government of the day, a minister or any other officer associated with Parliament. If a majority of members in the Legislative Assembly support a vote of no confidence in the Government this is sufficient to trigger the removal of that Government from office.
The glossary has been devised using a number of sources such as Butterworths Encyclopedic Australian Legal Dictionary and Parliament of Western Australia’s website.