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Primary legislation is a set of laws that have been directly approved by the Victorian State Parliament. In very basic terms, the Victorian Parliament will first have a discussion about the proposed set of laws and then they will vote on whether the proposed laws should become part of Victorian Law. Both Houses of Parliament must approve the proposed laws. The Lower House of Parliament is called the "Legislative Assembly" and the Upper House is called the "Legislative Council".
The proposed primary legislation is generally referred to as a “Bill”. Once approved, it is called an “Act of Parliament”. For example, the Essential Services Commission Act 2001 is an Act of Parliament. When it was first introduced into Parliament, it would have been called the Essential Services Commission Bill.
You can view all current primary legislation on the Parliament website (look under “Law Today”):
Although we say that Parliament makes the primary legislation, or "Acts of Parliament", this is simplifying things a little. In reality, the Ministers in the ruling political party of the day will come up with most of the proposals for new legislation, and once their collective, known as "Cabinet", has given the green light, the new laws are put to Parliament for approval. If you would like to learn more about what exactly a "Minister" is and what is "Cabinet", then stay tuned because I will write separately on these two topics.
Generally speaking, “subordinate legislation” or “subordinate laws” are sets of laws that are made to “fill in the details” that are not specifically covered in related primary legislation. The related primary legislation will usually contain a specific power for either a Minister or the Governor in Council to make these subordinate laws.
As an example, the National Parks Act 1975 is primary
legislation dealing with the management of national parks. The National
Parks Act 1975 would contain a power for the Governor in Council to
approve further subordinate legislation to, for example, set park entry fees.
Now you might ask yourself why is this the case? Why didn’t they just specify
the park entry fees in the primary legislation?
Well, the reason this approach is taken, is because it is anticipated that the park fees would probably need to change quite often and its a major hassle to have to go through the whole Parliamentary process just to have a park entry fee increased/decreased by 20 cents. Parliament is generally not concerned with this fine detail and they are happy to leave it to the Executive arm of Government to sort these matters out.
That is not to say that the Parliament wash their hands of the matter completely. Most subordinate legislation must be prepared in accordance with the Subordinate Legislation Act 1994. That Act requires public consultation in relation to subordinate laws and this allows the public to get involved and explain whether they think the proposed subordinate laws are fair and/or appropriate. Also, Parliament can intervene and “disallow” certain subordiate laws that seem inappropriate.
There are certain types of matters that Parliament would be unwilling to leave to subordinate legislation. For example, you would not generaly get an Act of Parliament permitting subordinate legislation to be made in relation to the setting of jail sentences for offences. Putting someone in jail is a very big deal and so such laws need to be included in the primary legislation so that they can be approved directly by Parliament.
In case you are wondering what exactly is the "Governor in Council", stay tuned because I wil cover this topic separately.
The laws that affect Victorians come from the three wings of Government:
Lists of Acts and Regulations