In response to those who have contacted our office to ask how I intend to vote on a bill before Parliament, and what the various stages of a bill are including the final vote, the following information outlines the process involved.
QLD Parliament is unicameral, meaning we do not have an Upper House and instead use a Committee system to scrutinize bills. This is one of the reasons I continue to request a review into our committee system as it fails to be transparent, accountable and effective. One of the greatest difficulties of the current system is that government has a casting vote. This means that should opposition members, including cross benchers which make up 50% of the ‘membership’, not support its ‘passage’ into Chamber, it will still pass through. This is a ‘flaw’ that was not part of the system when introduced a decade ago, and does not promote bipartisanism in obtaining the best outcome on a bill as is utilised in a comparative system, such as New Zealand.
Once a bill is introduced to Parliament, known as a ‘First Reading’, it is assigned to a specific committee for inquiry. This includes public submissions, hearings, legislative and Human Rights compliance, and concludes with a report that is tabled in Parliament containing a recommendation on whether the bill should pass or not. There is also the ability for any committee member to include a ‘Statement of Reservation’ (SOR) in this report. This is particularly important when the committee recommendation may be that the bill be passed, however a particular member, or members, may want to highlight concerns they have, which they voiced in the committee process or their objection to the bill, which is not available in public domain as minutes are not released. For anyone interested in the work of committees, you can subscribe here to read updates on current inquiries.
As an Independent MP, I conduct research on each bill including the committee report and SORs, and consider the diverse views of local stakeholders as communicated to our office as part of achieving the best outcomes for Noosa.
At times, the contents of a bill are more wide ranging than the title of the bill suggests and are called ‘Omnibus’ bills which can be problematic as there is no ability to vote for or against specific parts of the bill – the final vote is for the entirety of the bill. However, there is opportunity to address concerns via amendments through what is called the ‘Consideration in Detail’ phase (CID) after the vote to the ‘Second Reading’. These amendments also draw a vote.
There can be further complications when MPs or parties seek leave to move amendments outside the ‘long title of the bill’. The problem here is that you have not been provided with any information on the amendment, and when the leave is sought, the MP standing up cannot say what it is! A vote is taken, and if it is put by an opposition or crossbencher, it is usually voted down. It is important to hear any initiative to improve on a bill that may not service, in its original state, our community well. I support these, unless they are being utilised to ‘chew’ time, which is also done through ‘filibustering’, defined as a political procedure to prolong a debate, and part of Chamber strategies!
Once Consideration in Detail has completed, we move on to the ‘Third Reading’ which is the final vote for the bill itself. Given the variables that come before this final reading, an MP should consider the debate and amendments. As we have seen, this is not possible for the majority of MPs as the position taken by parties whether government or not has already been determined.
The confusion for many residents is the differences between the various votes, and why they are utilized, especially if you have defined whether you are for or against a bill. The Second Reading is key, as it gives a ‘heads up’ how the final, or Third Reading vote may/will go, and impacts whether you may vote in favour/against amendments to improve a predetermined outcome. Ultimately, my position from my debate speech would remain unchanged, unless an amendment vote was successful to deliver a better outcome than what was being proposed.
Due to this process, it is not always possible to give a definitive answer on how I intend to vote ahead of time, although there are many indications of the ‘direction’ in response to local stakeholder and community feedback via surveys or correspondence with our advocacies. These are shared, in Parliamentary speeches, Questions With or Without Notice, newspaper columns and posts to Facebook and Noosa 360.
More information on every aspect of QLD Parliament can be found on their website at https://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/ and official records of every sitting are available at https://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/Work-of-the-Assembly/Record-of-Proceedings
Voting records (remember the ‘For and against’ is recorded as AYES and NOES) and debate content are available on Hansard at https://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/Work-of-the-Assembly/Record-of-Proceedings , and my speeches, QWNS and QONS at www.sandybolton.com.
For those seeking a genuine understanding of the vote I put forward on behalf of our community on any particular bill, please contact our office on 53193100 or email email@example.com