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Chapter I: The Parliament

Part V – Powers of the Parliament

Legislative powers of the Parliament

The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power12 to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to:

  1. trade and commerce with other countries, and among the States;
  2. taxation; but so as not to discriminate between States or parts of States;
  3. bounties on the production or export of goods, but so that such bounties shall be uniform throughout the Commonwealth;
  4. borrowing money on the public credit of the Commonwealth;
  5. postal, telegraphic, telephonic, and other like services;
  6. the naval and military defence of the Commonwealth and of the several States, and the control of the forces to execute and maintain the laws of the Commonwealth;
  7. lighthouses, lightships, beacons and buoys;
  8. astronomical and meteorological observations;
  9. quarantine;
  10. fisheries in Australian waters beyond territorial limits;
  11. census and statistics;
  12. currency, coinage, and legal tender;
  13. banking, other than State banking; also State banking extending beyond the limits of the State concerned, the incorporation of banks, and the issue of paper money;
  14. insurance, other than State insurance; also State insurance extending beyond the limits of the State concerned;
  15. weights and measures;
  16. bills of exchange and promissory notes;
  17. bankruptcy and insolvency;
  18. copyrights, patents of inventions and designs, and trade marks;
  19. naturalization and aliens;
  20. foreign corporations, and trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth;
  21. marriage;
  22. divorce and matrimonial causes; and in relation thereto, parental rights, and the custody and guardianship of infants;
  23. invalid and old-age pensions;
  24. 13the provision of maternity allowances, widows' pensions, child endowment, unemployment, pharmaceutical, sickness and hospital benefits, medical and dental services (but not so as to authorize any form of civil conscription), benefits to students and family allowances;
  25. the service and execution throughout the Commonwealth of the civil and criminal process and the judgments of the courts of the States;
  26. the recognition throughout the Commonwealth of the laws, the public Acts and records, and the judicial proceedings of the States;
  27. 14the people of any race for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws;
  28. immigration and emigration;
  29. the influx of criminals;
  30. external affairs;
  31. the relations of the Commonwealth with the islands of the Pacific;
  32. the acquisition of property on just terms from any State or person for any purpose in respect of which the Parliament has power to make laws;
  33. the control of railways with respect to transport for the naval and military purposes of the Commonwealth;
  34. the acquisition, with the consent of a State, of any railways of the State on terms arranged between the Commonwealth and the State;
  35. railway construction and extension in any State with the consent of that State;
  36. conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State;
  37. matters in respect of which this Constitution makes provision until the Parliament otherwise provides;
  38. matters referred to the Parliament of the Commonwealth by the Parliament or Parliaments of any State or States,15 but so that the law shall extend only to States by whose Parliaments the matter is referred, or which afterwards adopt the law;
  39. the exercise within the Commonwealth, at the request or with the concurrence of the Parliaments of all the States directly concerned, of any power which can at the establishment of this Constitution be exercised only by the Parliament of the United Kingdom or by the Federal Council of Australasia;
  40. matters incidental to the execution of any power vested by this Constitution in the Parliament or in either House thereof, or in the Government of the Commonwealth, or in the Federal Judicature, or in any department or officer of the Commonwealth.

Exclusive powers of the Parliament

The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have exclusive power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to:

  1. the seat of government of the Commonwealth, and all places acquired by the Commonwealth for public purposes;
  2. matters relating to any department of the public service the control of which is by this Constitution transferred to the Executive Government of the Commonwealth;
  3. other matters declared by this Constitution to be within the exclusive power of the Parliament.

Powers of the Houses in respect of legislation

Proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys, or imposing taxation, shall not originate in the Senate. But a proposed law shall not be taken to appropriate revenue or moneys, or to impose taxation, by reason only of its containing provisions for the imposition or appropriation of fines or other pecuniary penalties, or for the demand or payment or appropriation of fees for licences, or fees for services under the proposed law.

The Senate may not amend proposed laws imposing taxation, or proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government.

The Senate may not amend any proposed law so as to increase any proposed charge or burden on the people.

The Senate may at any stage return to the House of Representatives any proposed law which the Senate may not amend, requesting, by message, the omission or amendment of any items or provisions therein. And the House of Representatives may, if it thinks fit, make any of such omissions or amendments, with or without modifications.

Except as provided in this section, the Senate shall have equal power with the House of Representatives in respect of all proposed laws.

Appropriation Bills

The proposed law which appropriates revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government shall deal only with such appropriation.

Tax Bill

Laws imposing taxation shall deal only with the imposition of taxation, and any provision therein dealing with any other matter shall be of no effect.

Laws imposing taxation, except laws imposing duties of customs or of excise, shall deal with one subject of taxation only; but laws imposing duties of customs shall deal with duties of customs only, and laws imposing duties of excise shall deal with duties of excise only.

Recommendation of money votes

A vote, resolution, or proposed law for the appropriation of revenue or moneys shall not be passed unless the purpose of the appropriation has in the same session been recommended by message of the Governor-General to the House in which the proposal originated.

Disagreement between the Houses

If the House of Representatives passes any proposed law, and the Senate rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree, and if after an interval of three months the House of Representatives, in the same or the next session, again passes the proposed law with or without any amendments which have been made, suggested, or agreed to by the Senate, and the Senate rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree, the Governor-General may dissolve the Senate and the House of Representatives simultaneously. But such dissolution shall not take place within six months before the date of the expiry of the House of Representatives by effluxion of time.

If after such dissolution the House of Representatives again passes the proposed law, with or without any amendments which have been made, suggested, or agreed to by the Senate, and the Senate rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree, the Governor-General may convene a joint sitting of the members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives.

The members present at the joint sitting may deliberate and shall vote together upon the proposed law as last proposed by the House of Representatives, and upon amendments, if any, which have been made therein by one House and not agreed to by the other, and any such amendments which are affirmed by an absolute majority of the total number of the members of the Senate and House of Representatives shall be taken to have been carried, and if the proposed law, with the amendments, if any, so carried is affirmed by an absolute majority of the total number of the members of the Senate and House of Representatives, it shall be taken to have been duly passed by both Houses of the Parliament, and shall be presented to the Governor-General for the Queen's assent.

Royal assent to Bills

When a proposed law passed by both Houses of the Parliament is presented to the Governor-General for the Queen's assent, he shall declare, according to his discretion, but subject to this Constitution, that he assents in the Queen's name, or that he withholds assent, or that he reserves the law for the Queen's pleasure.

Recommendations by Governor-General

The Governor-General may return to the house in which it originated any proposed law so presented to him, and may transmit therewith any amendments which he may recommend, and the Houses may deal with the recommendation.

Disallowance by the Queen

The Queen may disallow any law within one year from the Governor-General's assent, and such disallowance on being made known by the Governor-General by speech or message to each of the Houses of the Parliament, or by Proclamation, shall annul the law from the day when the disallowance is so made known.

Signification of Queen's pleasure on Bills reserved

A proposed law reserved for the Queen's pleasure shall not have any force unless and until within two years from the day on which it was presented to the Governor-General for the Queen's assent the Governor-General makes known, by speech or message to each of the Houses of the Parliament, or by Proclamation, that it has received the Queen's assent.

Note 12

Section 51 – The following Imperial Acts extended the legislative powers of the Parliament:

Number Short title Provision How affected
24 & 25 Geo. V. c. 49 Whaling Industry (Regulation) Act 1934 s. 15 For the United Kingdom, repealed by 1989 c. 43; in Australia, no longer necessary
1 Edw. VIII. & 1. Geo. VI. c. 15 Geneva Convention Act 1937 s. 2 No longer necessary; see 5 & 6 Eliz. II. c. 52, s. 6(a) and Geneva Convention Act 1938 (Cth), No. 14, 1938
2 & 3 Geo. VI. c. 62 Emergency Powers (Defence) Act 1939 s. 5 Repealed by 7 & 8 Eliz. II. c. 19, s. 10(3)(a) and the Fourth Schedule
3 & 4 Geo. VI. c. 18 Army and Air Force (Annual) Act 1940 s. 3 Repealed by 2 Eliz. II. c. 5

Note 13

Section 51 (xxiiiA) – This section was inserted by the Constitution Alteration (Social Services) 1946.

Note 14

Section 51 (xxvi) was amended by the Constitution Alteration (Aboriginals) 1967, and previously read as follows:

"(xxvi) the people of any race, other than the aboriginal race in any State, for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws;"

Note 15

Section 51 (xxxvii) – The following Acts have been passed by the Parliaments of the States to refer matters to the Parliament or adopt a Commonwealth law under section 51 (xxxvii):

State Number Short title How affected
New South Wales No. 65, 1915 Commonwealth Powers (War) Act 1915 Expired 9 Jan 1921; see s. 5
No. 33, 1942 Commonwealth Powers Act 1942 Expired; see s. 4
No. 18, 1943 Commonwealth Powers Act 1943 Expired; see s. 4
No. 48, 1983 Commonwealth Powers (Meat Inspection) Act 1983 Repealed by No. 147, 1997
No. 182, 1986 Commonwealth Powers (Family Law – Children) Act 1986 (Still in force)
No. 61, 1992 Mutual Recognition (New South Wales) Act 1992 (Still in force)
No. 104, 1992 Commonwealth Powers (State Banking) Act 1992 (Still in force)
No. 100, 1993 Commonwealth Powers (Poultry Processing) Act 1993 Repealed by No. 55, 1997
No. 102, 1996 Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition (New South Wales) Act 1996 (Still in force)
No. 99, 1997 Snowy Hydro Corporatisation Act 1997 (Still in force)
No. 1, 2001 Corporations (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2001 (Still in force)
No. 114, 2002 Terrorism (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2002 (Still in force)
No. 49, 2003 Commonwealth Powers (De Facto Relationships) Act 2003 (Still in force)
No. 69, 2008 Water (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2008 (Still in force)
No. 35, 2009 Personal Property Securities (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2009 (Still in force)
No. 115, 2009 Industrial Relations (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2009 (Still in force)
No. 6, 2010 Credit (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2010 (Still in force)
No 131, 2010 Vocational Education and Training (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2010 (Still in force)
No. 44, 2011 Business Names (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2011 (Still in force)
Victoria No. 3108 Commonwealth Powers (Air Navigation) Act 1920 Repealed by No. 4502, 1937
No. 3658 Commonwealth Arrangements Act 1928 Part III repealed by No. 4502, 1937; Parts I and II repealed by No. 6223, 1958
No. 4009 Debt Conversion Agreement Act 1931 (No. 2) Repealed by No. 73, 2005
No. 4950 Commonwealth Powers Act 1943 Not proclaimed to come into operation and cannot now be so proclaimed
No. 92, 1986 Commonwealth Powers (Family Law – Children) Act 1986 (Still in force)
No. 76, 1991 National Rail Corporation (Victoria) Act 1991 (Still in force)
No. 2, 1993 Mutual Recognition (Victoria) Act 1993 Expired; see s. 6
No. 59, 1996 Commonwealth Powers (Industrial Relations) Act 1996 Repealed by No 24, 2009
No. 105, 1997 Snowy Hydro Corporatisation Act 1997 (Still in force)
No. 4, 1998 Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition (Victoria) Act 1998 (Still in force)
No. 62, 1998 Mutual Recognition (Victoria) Act 1998 (Still in force)
No. 6, 2001 Corporations (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2001 (Still in force)
No. 14, 2003 Terrorism (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2003 (Still in force)
No. 84, 2004 Commonwealth Powers (De Facto Relationships) Act 2004 (Still in force)
No. 75, 2008 Water (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2008 (Still in force)
No. 24, 2009 Fair Work (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2009 (Still in force)
No. 60, 2009 Personal Property Securities (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2009 (Still in force)
No. 11, 2010 Credit (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2010 (Still in force)
No. 79, 2011 Business Names (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2011 (Still in force)
Queensland 12 Geo. V. No. 30 The Commonwealth Powers (Air Navigation) Act 1921 Repealed by 1 Geo. VI. No. 8
22 Geo. V.
No. 30
The Commonwealth Legislative Power Act 1931 Repealed by No. 46, 1983
7 Geo. VI. No. 19 Commonwealth Powers Act 1943 Expired; see s. 4
14 Geo. VI. No. 2 The Commonwealth Powers (Air Transport) Act 1950 (Still in force)
No. 37, 1990 Commonwealth Powers (Family Law – Children) Act 1990 (Still in force)
No. 67, 1992 Mutual Recognition (Queensland) Act 1992 (Still in force)
No. 43, 2001 Corporations (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2001 (Still in force)
No. 79, 2002 Terrorism (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2002 (Still in force)
No. 45, 2003 Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition (Queensland) Act 2003 (Still in force)
No. 78, 2003 Commonwealth Powers (De Facto Relationships) Act 2003 (Still in force)
No. 58, 2008 Water (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2008 (Still in force)
No. 37, 2009 Personal Property Securities (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2009 (Still in force)
No. 49, 2009 Fair Work (Commonwealth Powers) and Other Provisions Act 2009 (Still in force)
No. 16, 2010 Credit (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2010 (Still in force)
No. 34, 2011 Business Names (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2011 (Still in force)
No. 11, 2012 Vocational Education and Training (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2012 (Still in force)
South Australia No. 1469, 1921 Commonwealth Powers (Air Navigation) Act 1921 Repealed by No. 2352, 1937
No. 2061, 1931 Commonwealth Legislative Power Act 1931 (Still in force)
No. 3, 1943 Commonwealth Powers Act 1943 Expired; see s. 5
No. 89, 1986 Commonwealth Powers (Family Law) Act 1986 (Still in force)
No. 72, 1993 Mutual Recognition (South Australia) Act 1993 (Still in force)
No. 17, 1994 State Bank (Corporatisation) Act 1994 (Still in force)
No. 53, 1997 Non-Metropolitan Railways (Transfer) Act 1997 (Still in force)
No. 27, 1999 Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition (South Australia) Act 1999 (Still in force)
No. 21, 2001 Corporations (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2001 (Still in force)
No. 50, 2002 Terrorism (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2002 (Still in force)
No. 43, 2008 Water (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2008 (Still in force)
No. 47, 2009 Personal Property Securities (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2009 (Still in force)
No. 57, 2009 Fair Work (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2009 (Still in force)
No. 86, 2009 Commonwealth Powers (De Facto Relationships) Act 2009 (Still in force)
No. 2, 2010 Credit (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2010 (Still in force)
No. 2, 2012 Vocational Education and Training (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2012 (Still in force)
No. 4, 2012 Business Names (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2012 (Still in force)
Western Australia No. 4, 1943 Commonwealth Powers Act 1943 Repealed by No. 58, 1965
No. 57, 1945 Commonwealth Powers Act 1945 Repealed by No. 58, 1965
No. 30, 1947 Commonwealth Powers Act 1943, Amendment Act 1947 Repealed by No. 58, 1965
No. 31, 1947 Commonwealth Powers Act 1945, Amendment Act 1947 Repealed by No. 58, 1965
No. 73, 1947 Commonwealth Powers Act 1945, Amendment Act (No. 2) 1947 Repealed by No. 58, 1965
No. 81, 1947 Commonwealth Powers Act 1945-1947, Amendment (Continuance) Act 1947 Repealed by No. 58, 1965
No. 98, 1990 Child Support (Adoption of Laws) Act 1990 (Still in force)
No. 56, 1992 National Rail Corporation Agreement Act 1992 Repealed by No. 48, 1999
No. 53, 1995 Mutual Recognition (Western Australia) Act 1995 Expired; see s. 7
No. 6, 2001 Mutual Recognition (Western Australia) Act 2001 Expired; see s. 7
No. 7, 2001 Corporations (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2001 (Still in force)
No. 53, 2002 Terrorism (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2002 (Still in force)
No. 26, 2006 Commonwealth Powers (De Facto Relationships) Act 2006 (Still in force)
No. 30, 2007 Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition (Western Australia) Act 2007 (Still in force)
No. 13, 2010 Credit (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2010 (Still in force)
No. 52, 2010 Mutual Recognition (Western Australia) Act 2010 (Still in force)
No. 41, 2011 Personal Property Securities (Commonwealth Laws) Act 2011 (Still in force)
No. 6, 2012 Business Names (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2012 (Still in force)
Tasmania 11 Geo. V. No. 42 Commonwealth Powers (Air Navigation) Act 1920 Repealed by 1 Geo. VI. No. 14
No. 46, 1952 Commonwealth Powers (Air Transport) Act 1952 (Still in force)
No. 62, 1966 Commonwealth Powers (Trade Practices) Act 1966 Expired; see s. 2
No. 5, 1987 Commonwealth Powers (Family Law) Act 1987 (Still in force)
No. 33, 1993 Mutual Recognition (Tasmania) Act 1993 (Still in force)
No. 39, 2001 Corporations (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2001 (Still in force)
No. 68, 2002 Terrorism (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2002 (Still in force)
No. 60, 2003 Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition (Tasmania) Act 2003 (Still in force)
No. 18, 2006 Commonwealth Powers (De Facto Relationships) Act 2006 (Still in force)
No. 51, 2009 Credit (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2009 (Still in force)
No. 88, 2009 Industrial Relations (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2009 (Still in force)
No. 15, 2010 Personal Property Securities (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2010 (Still in force)
No. 30, 2011 Business Names (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2011 (Still in force)
No. 50, 2011 Vocational Education and Training (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2011 (Still in force)