FOCUS: ‘What Does that Word Mean?’

Welcome back to Parliament 101. Over the past nine months we used a very large number of words and phrases in describing how the Parliament works. Since we are often
06 Jul 2015 11:58
FOCUS: ‘What Does that Word Mean?’
Writer simplies jargons common in parliarment.

Welcome back to Parliament 101. Over the past nine months we used a very large number of words and phrases in describing how the Parliament works.

Since we are often asked about these terms, it seems appropriate now to give you a short list of the most commonly used words and phrases to remind you of those which have appeared at some point in these columns.

You might like to cut this list out to put in your notebook for easy reference.



Act: a law made by Parliament.

Adjournment debate: a debate at the end of each sitting day of a House when members make speeches on any subject on the motion to end the sitting.

Auditor-General: an officer of Parliament who reviews the Government’s financial activities and reports directly to the Parliament.

Aye: the word used for voting ‘yes’ in Parliament.

Backbencher:    those members of Parliament who are not ministers or shadow ministers.

Bill: a proposal for a new law which has been presented to Parliament.

Budget: a plan placed before Parliament every year by the Treasurer showing what money the Government expects to receive and how the Government wants to spend it.

Backbencher:    those members of Parliament who are not ministers or shadow ministers.

Cabinet: the group of Ministers who exercise the executive decision-making duties of the Government.

Censure motion: a motion to express disapproval of the actions of a minister.

Clause : a separate sentence in a Bill. (Once a Bill has become an Act, a clause is known as a section).

Committee of the whole: a committee consisting of all members of the Parliament usually to consider a Bill in detail.

Confidence: the support of more than half the members of the Parliament for the Government or the Government’s budget.

Cross the floor: to vote with an opposing party.

Debate: a formal discussion on a Bill or other topic in which different views are put.

Estimates: the amounts of money which the Government thinks will be needed to run government works and services for the year: Details of the estimates can be found in the Appropriation Bills.

Free vote (or conscience vote): a vote in Parliament in which members are free to vote according to their own judgment or beliefs.

Frontbencher: Minister or shadow minister who sit in the front row of seats .

Gag: a procedure for closing a discussion in a House when some members still wish to speak.

Grievance: a matter of concern.

Guillotine: a time limit set on discussion of a Bill.

Hansard: the printed record of the debates in Parliament.

Leader of the Opposition: the leader of the party which is the next largest after the government party made up of members who do not support the Government.

Legislation: a law or set of laws.

Lobby: a person or group of people seeking MP support for a particular cause; also (as a verb) to pursue such support.

Mace: once a symbol of royal authority, but now the symbol of the authority of Parliament and its Speaker.

Maiden speech: the first speech in Parliament by a newly elected member.

Ministerial responsibility: the doctrine that the ministers in a Government, individually and collectively, are accountable to the Parliament for their activities and actions.

Minister: a member of Parliament who is a member of the Executive Government, and who is usually in charge of a government department.

Ministry: a collective name for all ministers; also for the Government;

Motion: a proposal put forward for consideration, debate and decision by the Parliament.

No confidence: amotion by which the Parliament expresses dissatisfaction with a Prime Minister.

Non-partisan: not aligned to a political party; not biased or one sided; neutral.

Notice of motion: an announcement of intention to put forward a motion for consideration, nearly always for a later day.

Order Paper: the document issued each sitting day that lists all outstanding business before the Parliament.

Opposition: the party or coalition of parties which is recognised as formally oppose to the Government of the day. parliamentary committee – A small group of Members of Parliament, usually drawn from all parties, which considers and reports on matters referred to it by the Parliament.

Parliamentary procedure: the special rules and methods for carrying out the business of the Parliament most, but not all, of whichare expressed the Parliament’s Standing Orders.

Petition: a document presented to theParliament by a person or a group of people asking for action from the Parliament on a matter of concern.

Point of order: a question as to whether proceedings in a meeting are in accord with the rules or in the correct form.

Political party: a group of people registered to stand at elections for seats in Parliament.

Portfolio: the area of responsibility,usually a department, for which a Minister is responsible.

President: the Head of State; constitutionally a formal part of Parliament.

Press gallery: an area reserved for the media in Parliament; also the journalists who work for the media inside Parliament House.

Prime Minister: the Head of Government.

Prorogue: to end a session of Parliament.

Public gallery: an area in Parliament set aside for the public to watch the proceedings of Parliament.

Question Time: a daily period of time in each house of the Parliament in which ministers are asked questions concerning their responsibilities by other members.


Reading (of a Bill): one of three formal stages in the passage of a Bill through Parliament.

Representative: another name for an elected Member of Parliament.

Responsibility: a duty of care for a Minister’s executive obligations .

Revenue: the money Government collects from taxes and other sources as authorised by the Parliament.
Presidential assent: the signing of a Bill by the Head of State which is normally the last step in making a Bill an Act of Parliament.

Ruling: a formal decision made by the Speaker or President, usually on a matter of procedure.

Second reading: theprincipal stagein the passage of a Bill for debate on the content, principles or purposes of the proposed legislation.

Secretary-General: the most senior permanent official in the Parliament who records all the decisions and advises the Speaker on procedure.

Session: a parliamentary period which starts on the first day of sitting after an election or prorogation and ends at a prorogation or dissolution of the House

Sittings: meetings of the Parliament.

Speaker: the person elected by the Members of Parliament to serve as its presiding officer.

Standing Orders: the permanent rules which govern the conduct of business in a House of Parliament.

Supply: a Bill to allow the Government to spend money on the requirements of government.

Table: the table at which the Secretary-General sits; also (as a verb) to present a document to the Parliament.

Third reading: the final stage, normally without debate, in the passage of a Bill through Parliament.

Whip: a party manager in Parliament who is responsible for organising members of his or her party to take part in debates and votes.

And Finally

This marks the end of this series of Parliament 101 columns for the time being. All the columns are now being edited and prepared as a booklet for the August meeting of the Students’ Parliament.

Vinaka vakalevu to all the regular readers for your support and occasional questions. Questions on Parliament will continue to be welcomed, of course.

Finally Parliament 101 wishes to thank both the publisher and staff of the Fiji Sun and the Embassy of Japan for the their constant and patient support for the column over the past nine months.

Feedback: jyotip@fijisun.com.fj






Get updates from the Fiji Sun, handpicked and delivered to your inbox.

By entering your email address you're giving us permission to send you news and offers. You can opt-out at any time.

5SQRS Clearance

Fiji Sun Instagram