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Focus question 3: How do we make laws today?

Teaching and learning activities

Activity 1: Pet laws ESL Activity 1
Activity 2: Creating a law ESL Activity 2
Activity 3: Pass the Bill ESL Activity 3
Assessment task: Research activity ESL Assessment task
Assessment criteria  

Pets to be put to death

We all like to live in a beautiful area where there are trees, birds and small native animals.

But in this beauty there are killers lurking. Some pets are killing birds and native animals, and destroying parts of the fragile vegetation.

Some of the ‘killers’ are domestic pets that are not kept under control; some of them are pets that have escaped and are now ‘feral’ (running wild).

Something needs to be done! We need to limit the number of pets people can keep, and we need to be able to have powers to control those pets and their owners. Who can come up with a solution to this problem?

Activity 1: Pet laws

‘Pets to be put to death’, an article from a local newspaper, is a report of a conversation with a local resident. Work in groups to answer the following questions.

1a What is the problem? Discuss the situation and note the main issues raised.

1b Discuss some possible solutions to the problem. Come up with as many as you can. They do not need to be solutions you think are the best, but ones that you think could work.

1c Select those possible solutions which do not demand new laws (so do not select ‘shoot the animals on sight’). Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each solution selected, using a table like the one below.

Solutions not requiring a new law







1d Do you think a ‘non-law’ solution could work? Explain your reasons.

1e What might be the advantages of a new law in this situation? What might be some disadvantages?

Activity 2: Creating a law

When settlement of a problem does require a new law, a range of different views must be taken into consideration. The ten people below might have an interest in the issue of neighbourhood pets. Working in pairs, assume the role of one of these people:

2a For your character, work out:

2b Now hold a meeting of all these people, and put your view. Your teacher, who will chair the meeting, will call on individuals to present one suggestion from your character. Either one of your pair can be selected - so be prepared!

2c Make a note of all the proposals put to the meeting, and decide which three your character thinks are best.

2d Vote as a class on all the proposals, eliminating the one with the least votes. Keep voting in this way until there is only one solution left.

2e Discuss whether you think this is a good way of coming to a solution. If a law comes out of this process, is the neighbourhood likely to accept it?

2f Take the result of 2d. Now draft this proposal as a law, trying to make it clear and simple but able to solve the problem of controlling pets from damaging wildlife. Include in your law:

Head your law: A law to control domestic pets and protect native wildlife.

2g To test the scope of your law, see if it covers these situations.

Has your law covered these situations? If so, congratulations! Your law deals with real situations. If not, you need to make changes to your law so that it can do what it is supposed to do.

In this neighbourhood example, you have experienced something of how and why statute laws (Acts of Parliament) come into being. A need is aired, a possible solution is worked out by a law-making body (parliament), and a law is put into effect for the benefit of individuals or communities. So how do parliaments actually make laws in Australia?

Activity 3: Pass the Bill

Poster Card
Parliament at work

3a Look at the ‘Commonwealth Government’ poster to see the different elements of the Commonwealth Parliament.

3b Do the exercise ‘Pass the Bill’ on the Parliament at Work CD ROM.

Following are some terms that might help you with this task


Parliament is a body which makes laws. Members are voted into parliament at elections. The Commonwealth Parliament makes laws for the whole of Australia, while the eight State and Territory parliaments make laws only for their own State or Territory.


Government members of the parliament are those who belong to the political party with the majority (the most members) in the lower house of parliament. They are responsible for governing the State or Territory or, if they are in the Commonwealth Parliament, the whole country. Ministers meet together to plan what the government will do. These meetings are called Cabinet meetings.


Opposition members of the parliament are those who do not belong to the political party in government. They often argue against (oppose) what the government is proposing as a law, or try to get changes made to better suit their ideas.

Assessment task: Research activity

Using newspapers, television news or television current affairs shows, find three laws being argued about in the community now. Some might be new laws being proposed. Others might be laws that some people want changed.

Pool your individual lists into a class list. Your teacher will help you to decide which items are not about laws, or any that would be unsuitable to investigate.

Choose one of the laws from the resulting list. Draw up a chart or poster to show the following information about the proposed new law or proposed change to an existing law (you may need to use the Internet or other resources to seek further information).

a What is the reason given for needing the proposed new law or change to the law?

b What is the purpose of the proposed new law or change to the law?

c Who wants the law introduced or changed? Why?

d Who does not want the law introduced or changed? Why?

e Which parliament would make the proposed new law or change to the law?

f How would the new or changed law be enforced? What penalty or punishment would exist for people who break it?

Parliament at work

After studying ‘Pass the Bill’ on the Parliament at Work CD ROM, explain the main stages your proposed new law or change to the law might go through from the time it is introduced to parliament. Make sure you cover:

Assessment criteria

Your work will be assessed on:

ESL activities

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AcknowledgementsLegal Information