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Standing Orders - Senate Standing Committee - Reports of the Sixtieth Session - Second

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The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia


Second Report for the Sixtieth Session 1980-81

November 1981

Presented and ordered to be printed 11 November 1981

Parliamentary Paper No. 360/1981

© Commonwealth of Australia 1982

ISBN 0 644 01714 7

Printed by Authority by the Commonwealth Government Printer




The Standing Orders Committee has the honour to report to the Senate

on the following matters in respect of which the Committee has

agreed to make recommendations to the Senate, and which involve

substantial changes to the Standing Orders. It is recommended

that these matters be dealt with by the Senate before the end of

this year, so that the Standing Orders may be reprinted at the

beginning of next year with all recent amendments.


1. Since 26 November 1980 a proposed new Standing Order 64

has been in operation on a trial basis as a Sessional Order

(attached as Appendix A) . The Committee believes that the

procedures contained in the Sessional Order have worked well

and that the new Standing Order 64 should now be permanently

adopted. It is accordingly recommended that Standing Order

64 should be repealed and replaced by the new Standing Order

64 contained in the Sessional Order made by the Senate on

that date.


2. On 26 November 1980 a new Standing Order 109A was

adopted on a trial basis as a Sessional Order (attached

as Appendix B). It provides that notice of intention must

be given of a proposed withdrawal of any notice of motion

for the disallowance of any regulations, ordinance or other

instrument. This procedure ensures that the rights of

Senators in relation to disallowance motions are preserved.


The Committee believes that the procedure has worked

well and ought now to be permanently adopted. It is

accordingly recommended that the new Standing Order 109A

contained in the Sessional Order agreed to by the Senate

on that date be adopted.


3. The Committee has again considered the question of

whether the requirement for motions and amendments in the

Senate to be seconded should be retained, in accordance

with the resolution of the Senate of 28 April 1981.

4 . The rule requiring a seconder for motions and amendments

is of obscure origin, and has now been abandoned by a number

of important legislative assemblies, including the British

House of Commons and both Houses of the United States Congre

In the Australian Senate, the requirement for seconders has

long been modified by a practice whereby motions and amendm

moved by Ministers and Party Leaders are not required to be


5. The requirement for seconders has also been objected to

on the principle that each Senator has been elected by a

large number of electors,and ought to have the right to have

his motions before the Senate voted upon even if he cannot

obtain a seconder for them. There is also a practical

difficulty, in that if a seconder insists upon his right to

speak at once to a motion, instead of reservina his right to

later in the debate as contemplated by Standing Order 409,

the usual practice whereby speakers in debate are called

from each side alternately is disrupted.

6. The Committee is persuaded that the seconding of motions

and amendments should no longer be required in the Senate,

and accordingly recommends that the practice of seconding

be abolished. In order to achieve this, it is recommended

that the amendments of the Standing Orders set out in

Appendix C be adopted.



7. This matter was referred to the Committee by the Senate

on 28 February 1980. It was suggested in debate that the

prohibition, presently contained in the Standing Orders,

upon Senate Committees meeting while the Senate is sitting

unduly restricts the time which committees have available

for their meetings. It was not suggested that every Senate

committee be entirely free to meet during the sittings; it

was recognised that there would need to be some restrictions

upon such meetings. Restrictions which were suggested were

that committees should not have public meetings or hear

witnesses during the sittings,and that a limited number

of committees should be allowed to meet at any one time

during the sittings.

8. The main consideration against the proposal is that

the primary duty of Senators is to the Senate, and that

proceedings in the Senate ought not to be neglected or

poorly attended in favour of proceedings in committees,

which are the creatures of the Senate.

9. Apart from this consideration, there are serious

practical difficulties with the proposal. These difficulties

include the following:

(i> It would be extremely difficult in practice to

impose restrictions upon committees meeting during

the sittings, as Senators in favour of the proposal

have suggested. In particular, it is difficult

to see how the number of committees meeting at

any one time during the sittings could be

restricted without some elaborate system of

applications to the President, and a discretion

vested in the President to determine which

meetings should have priority. The only

effective way of imposing restrictions on

the number of committees meeting is the

present practice whereby committees wishing

to meet during the sittings must seek the

permission of the Senate.


(ii) Not only would attendance in the Chamber fall

off if the proposal were accepted, but the work

of committees could suffer if they had to compete

with the Senate itself for the attendance of

their members. The high quality of performance

of Senate committees is partly due to the high

level of attendance of their members. Attendance

at committee meetings would suffer during sittings

of the Senate.

(iii) The meetings of committees during sittings may

be considerably disrupted by proceedings of the

Senate, particularly by divisions and the calling

of quorums. Senators who are waiting for particular

debates to commence in the Senate may not be able

to give their full attention to committee


(iv) Senators who have committee meetings which clash

with debates in the Senate in which they are

interested would be presented with a difficult

choice of whether to neglect their committee

work or to neglect their contribution to Senate

debates. Senators may very well find that their

work in the Senate and in committees would suffer

if the proposal were to be accepted.

10. The Senate has not refused permission to committees to

meet during sittings when committees have made application

in particular circumstances, and the Committee considers

that it is desirable that the Senate retain this right to

determine which of its committees shall meet during its

sittings, and to ensure that there are good reasons for

such meetings in particular cases. The Committee accordingly

recommends no change to the present procedures.




6. URGENCY MOTION AND DISCUSSION OF MATTER OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE— PROPOSED NEW STANDING ORDER 64 (To operate on a trial basis as a Sessional Order) 64. (1) A Senator may (a) propose that a matter of public importance be

submitted to the Senate for discussion; or (b) move a motion, without Notice, "That in the opinion of the Senate the following is a matter of urgency: [here specify the matter of urgency]".

(2) The Senator proposing the matter of public importance or the Motion to debate the matter of urgency shall hand in to the President, at least 90 minutes before the time fixed for the meeting of the Senate, and on that day only, a written statement of the proposed matter of public importance or

urgency, as the case may be.

(3) If the President deems a proposed matter of public importance or urgency to be in order, he shall read it to the Senate after Petitions have been presented, Notices given, and Questions seeking information have been asked, and before other business of the day is proceeded with.

(4) The proposed matter of public importance or Motion to debate a matter of urgency must be supported by four Senators, not including the proposer, rising in their places as indicating their approval thereof.

(5) In the event of more than one matter of public importance or urgency being presented for the same day, priority shall be given to that which is first handed to the President, and no other proposed matter of public importance or urgency shall be read to the Senate that day.

(6) A Motion to debate a matter of urgency may not be amended.

(7) Unless otherwise ordered, neither the Senator proposing a matter of public importance or moving a motion to debate a matter of urgency, nor the Senator next speaking, shall speak for more than 20 minutes, and no other Senator, including the mover of the Motion to debate a matter of urgency in reply, shall speak for more than 15 minutes Provided that the whole discussion on the subject shall not exceed two hours.

(8) Every Senator speaking shall confine himself to the stated subject of the matter of public importance or the terms of the Motion to debate a matter of urgency.

(9) At any time during the discussion of a matter of public importance, a motion may be made by any Senator, but not so as to interrupt another Senator addressing the Senate-—That the business of the day be called on. No amendment, adjournment or debate shall be allowed on such motion, which shall be put immediately by the President; if agreed to, the business of the day shall be proceeded with immediately.

(Agreed to 26 November 1980)



7. TRANSFER OF NOTICE OF MOTION FOR DISALLOWANCE— PROPOSED NEW STANDING ORDER 109a (T o operate on a b id basis as a Sessional Order) 109a. A Senator who wishes to withdraw a Notice of Motion standing in his name to disallow, disapprove, or declare void and of no effect any instrument made under the authority of any Act which provides for the instrument to be subject to disallowance or disapproval by either House of the Parliament, or

subject to a Resolution of either House of the Parliament declaring the instrument to be void and of no effect, shall give notice to the Senate of his intention to withdraw the Notice of Motion. Such notice of intention shall be

given in the same manner as a Notice of Motion, shall indicate the stage in the routine of business of the Senate at which it is intended to withdraw the Notice of Motion, and shall not have effect for the day on which it is given; except that, if given on a day on which by force of the statute the instrument shall be deemed to be disallowed if the Motion has not been withdrawn or otherwise

resolved, or on a day on which by force of the statute the Motion must be passed in order to be effective, such notice of intention may have effect for a later hour of that day. If another Senator, at any time after the giving of such notice of intention and before the intended withdrawal of the Notice of Motion,

indicates to the. Senate that he wishes the Notice of Motion not to be withdrawn, his name shall be put on the Notice of Motion, the name of the Senator who wishes to withdraw the Notice of Motion shall be removed from it, and it shall not be withdrawn; but if no Senator so objects to the withdrawal of the

Notice of Motion, it may be withdrawn in accordance with such notice of intention. For the purpose of this Standing Order, “instrument" has the same meaning as for the purpose of Standing Order 66a.

(Agreed to 26 November 1980)



Amendments of Standing Orders required to abolish seconding of motions and amendments.

1. That Standing Orders 123, 140, 266 and 409 be repealed.

2. That the following Standing Orders be amended as indicated:

(a) Standing Order 17 - leave out "Such motion, before being entertained by the Senate, shall be seconded by some other Senator.";

(b) Standing Order 18 -(i) leave out "and seconded" (first occurring), and

(ii) leave out "Senators who proposed and seconded him", insert "Senator who proposed him";

(c) Standing Orders 19, 20, 21 and 128 - leave out "and seconded" (wherever occurring);

(d) Standing Order 370 - leave out "Senators who moved and seconded", insert "Senator who moved";

(e) Standing Order 429 - leave out ", if seconded,";

(f) Standing Order 436 - leave out "Senators moving and seconding", insert "Senator moving"; and

(g) Standing Order 448 - leave out ", duly made and seconded,".