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The order of the day having been read for the consideration of Message No. 361 from the Senate (reported 27 November 2003, see page 1335)—

Purported pressed requests—Statement by Deputy Speaker

The Deputy Speaker made the following statement:

It is my duty, on behalf of the Speaker, to draw the attention of the House to the constitutional question this message involves.

The House has never accepted that the Senate has a right to repeat its requests for amendments to a Bill when the House has rejected the requests. There are no House standing orders covering a situation for consideration of pressed requests, suggesting a belief, in the minds of those framing the standing orders, that the House would not, in the normal transaction of business, require procedural rules of this kind.

It is a matter of constitutional propriety as between the Houses based on the provisions of sections 53 to 57 of the Constitution. Legal opinions supporting the argument that the Constitution does not empower the Senate to press requests have been advanced by Quick and Garran, who were intimately involved in the development of the Constitution, and by eminent constitutional lawyers, past and present. I draw the attention of the House to the arguments which are summarised in House of Representatives Practice.

In 1983, the action of the Senate in pressing requests was taken as failure to pass proposed legislation and included as the basis for a simultaneous dissolution of both Houses.

However, there have been occasions in the past when the House has refrained from determining its constitutional rights. The message has subsequently been considered.

There are, of course, situations where negotiations between the Houses concerning amendmentsto Bills, that is proposed changes to Bills which the Constitution permits the Senate to make, are unresolved. The standing orders of the House provide for situations of this kind. They provide for a stage at which, if the requirements of the House are not met, the Bill in question must be laid aside or a conference with the Senate sought. Standing orders would need to be suspended to enable acceptance of the Senate amendments or alternative amendments. It has been considered to be inappropriate to suspend standing orders to continue the process of disagreement.

It is important that the House has regard to the constitutional implications and is not taken to have determined its privileges simply by the act of consideration of a Senate message. However it should be open to the House to take whatever course it thinks appropriate in situations where the Senate purports to press its requests for amendments to proposed legislation. This could involve a range of options extending from declining to consider the message to considering the message and making or not making the amendments requested by the Senate by one means or another.

It rests with the House as to whether it will consider Senate message No. 361 insofar as it purports to press the requests that were contained originally in Senate message No. 350.

Mr Pyne (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Family and Community Services) moved—That:

(1) the House:

 (a) endorses the statement of the Speaker in relation to the constitutional questions raised by message No. 361 transmitted by the Senate in relation to the Family Assistance Legislation Amendment (Extension of Time Limits) Bill 2003;

(b) notes that, in the past, the purported pressing of requests was accepted as a failure to pass proposed legislation in the terms of section 57 of the Constitution;

(c) asserts that, in considering this constitutionally unsound practice of the Senate in purporting to press its requests, the House refrains from any determination of its constitutional rights in respect of Senate message No. 361;

(d) declines to consider further the requested amendments which the Senate has purported to press; and

(2) the message returning the Bill to the Senate convey the terms of this resolution.

Question—put and passed.