Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Standing Orders - Senate Standing Committee - Reports of the Sixtieth Session - Third


Download PDF Download PDF

The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia

SENATE STANDING ORDERS COMMITTEE

Third Report for the Sixtieth Session

1980-81-82

April 1982

Presented and ordered to be printed 20 April 1982

Parliamentary Paper No. 82/1982

Parliamentary Paper No. 82/1982

The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia

SENATE STANDING ORDERS COMMITTEE

Third Report for the

Sixtieth Session 1980 - 81 - 82

April 1982

© Commonwealth of Australia 1982

ISBN 0 644 01861 5

Printed by Authority by the Commonwealth Government Printer

STANDING ORDERS COMMITTEE

THIRD REPORT FOR THE SIXTIETH SESSION

1980-81-82

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 arose from the Committee's consideration

of matters referred to it after debate on the Committee's

Fifth Report of the Fifty-ninth Session in April 1981.

1. CONSIDERATION OF COMMITTEE REPORTS

1. The Senate requested the Committee to reconsider

the procedure for the presentation and consideration

of committee reports. Senators who spoke in the debate

on this matter saw the need for some procedure to ensure

that an opportunity would be available for debate on

committee reports shortly after their presentation.

The Committee believes that the best solution to this

problem would be to provide by sessional order for

a fixed time for debate on committee reports at the

end of each week.

2. The Committee accordingly recommends that the

sessional order proposed in Appendix A be adopted by

the Senate. The sessional order provides for a time

of one hour to be set aside on Thursday of each week

for debate on committee reports, with committee reports

presented during that week taking precedence and, if

there are no such reports, or if debate on such reports

does not occupy the available time, with provision

for the consideration of reports presented in previous

weeks. A special time limit of ten minutes for each

speaker is also provided, so as to ensure the maximum

opportunity for all Senators who wish to speak to do

2 .

so. The sessional order refers to the hour before General

Business takes precedence, rather than a specific time,

to accommodate any future alteration in the sitting

times of the Senate.

2. IMPROVING THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE SENATE

3. In conjunction with its consideration of procedures

for the presentation of committee reports, the Committee

has considered ways whereby the Senate might make better

use of the time available to it. It is clear that the

volume of business which the Government and private

Senators wish to transact cannot be fitted into the

time available without some streamlining of proceedings.

The Committee has considered a number of different

proposals to achieve this end, and honourable Senators

have been consulted on these proposals through their

Party Whips. Attached as Appendix B are the proposals

in respect of which the opinions of Senators were sought.

4. After considering the responses of Senators to

these proposals, and the merits of the various proposals

themselves, the Committee has agreed to recommend the

following measures to the Senate:

(a) that the general time limit on speeches be

half an hour on Tuesdays and Thursdays, as

it is at present on Wednesdays, and that

the Standing Orders be amended accordingly

as set out in Appendix C (this does not affect

special time limits on particular debates);

and

(b ) that there be a special limit of 15 minutes on

speaking times in debate on the first reading of a

Bill which the Senate may not amend, and that the

Standing Orders be amended accordingly as also set

out in Appendix C .

3.

3. PETITIONS

5. In considering the more effective use of the time

available to the Senate, the Committee has also considered

the time taken on Tuesdays and Wednesdays by the reading

of petitions.

6. The Committee recommends that the reading of the

full text of petitions be abandoned, that all petitions

presented by Senators be lodged with the Clerk, and

that the Clerk read a summary of the content of petitions.

It is accordingly recommended that the present Sessional

Order governing the presentation of petitions be replaced

by a new sessional order set out in Appendix D. The

adoption of this sessional order would allow consideration

in the future of any further changes to the procedure

for the presentation of petitions after the recommended

procedure has been tried for a t i m e .

7. If the new sessional order is adopted, Mr President

will, as a matter of practice, have a list of all petitions

circulated to honourable Senators, and the texts of petitions

referred to the relevant Standing Committees, so that, should

those Committees wish to inquire into any particular

petition, they may seek a reference from the Senate to do so.

4. QUESTION TIME

8. Pursuant to the request of the Senate, the Committee

has again examined the process of Question Time in

the Senate. The Committee has considered the points

made by Senators during debate on this matter.

9. In relation to the practice of warning a Minister

that a question on a particular subject is to be asked,

the Committee adheres to the view which it expressed

in its Fifth Report for the Fifty-ninth Session:

4.

The Committee considers that the Standing Orders do not prohibit a Senator from advising a Minister that he proposes to ask a certain type of question. It is a long-established practice for Senators to give Ministers informal advice prior to question time of the subject on which they propose to ask questions, so that Ministers may obtain information on those subjects. It is considered that this is an acceptable practice, particularly in a chamber where Ministers represent several ministries in addition to their own, and that it leads to a more satisfactory question time.

The Committee reiterates, however, the distinction between this practice o f giving informal advice o f the subject o f a question to be asked and the giving o f written notice of the precise terms of a question calling for a detailed answer. The latter ought to be done by placing the question on the notice paper, in accordance with Standing Order 101.

The Committee is of the view that this practice is

of benefit to Senators from both sides of the Chamber.

10. In relation to supplementary questions, questions

on deferred answers, and the subsidiary matters raised

during the debate, the Committee does not recommend

any changes to the present practices of the Senate.

The Committee considers that any improvement in the

quality of Question Time must come from Senators and

Ministers, and particularly from their willingness

to keep their questions and answers concise.

HAROLD YOUNG

Chairman

5.

APPENDIX A

Consideration of Committee Reports

Proposed Sessional Order

(1) That, notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders, and unless otherwise ordered, where in any week there are Orders of the Day for the resumption of debate on motions for the consideration or adoption of reports of committees -

(a) On Thursday of that week the business before the Senate shall be interrupted one hour before the time at which General Business would have precedence pursuant to Sessional Order, and if the Senate is in Committee at that time, the Chairman shall forthwith leave the Chair and report to the Senate ;

(b ) Orders of the Day relating to reports of committees presented to the Senate during that week shall then be severally called on, in the order in which the respective reports were presented;

(c ) if there were no committee reports presented during that week, or if debate on motions relating to such reports concludes before the expiration of one h o u r , Orders of the Day relating to committee reports presented prior to

that week shall then be severally called on in an order which is the reverse of the order in which the respective reports were presented;

(d ) in any debate on such motions so called on, each Senator may speak for not more than 10 minutes; and

(e) any debate pursuant to this Sessional Order shall be interrupted after the expiration of one hour.

(2) Provided that, where debate on any motion debated under the provisions of this Sessional Order is adjourned or is interrupted under the provisions of this Sessional Order, Senators who have spoken to such motion under the provisions of this Sessional Order may again speak

to the motion for the time allowed under Standing Order 407A when the debate on the motion is again called on in the normal course of business.

6.

APPENDIX B

SENATE PROCEEDINGS

PROPOSALS BEFORE THE STANDING ORDERS COMMITEE

Background

The Standing Orders Committee is considering a number of suggestions whereby better use might be made of the time available to the Senate. The Committee has agreed to test

the feeling of Senators on a number of those propositions, as set out below.

The Propositions

1. The general time limit for speeches on Tuesdays and Thursdays be half an hou r , as it is on Wednesdays.

2. Either of the following:

(1) (a ) a special time limit on speeches on first reading debates, say 15 minutes, and/or

(b) a limit on the total time on first

reading debates, say 2 hours;

OR

(2) a specific time set aside, say 1 or 1*5 hours

each week, for Senators to speak on any matter, with a special time limit of 15 minutes on speeches, to replace the first reading debate.

3. A limit of 15 minutes on speaking time on the

adjournment debate, and/or a total time limit, say half an hour, on the adjournment debate each d a y .

(Sent to all Whips and Senator Harradine 24.2.82)

7.

APPENDIX C

Proposed amendment of Standing Order 407A to reduce the general time limit on speeches to half an hour on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and to provide a special time limit of fifteen minutes for speeches on first reading debates.

Standing Order 407A is as follows:

No Senator shall speak for more than one hour in any debate in the Senate. Any Senator may move that the time limit of one hour may be extended for thirty minutes; such motion shall forthwith be put without debate:

Provided that where a right of reply is allowed in any debate a Senator speaking in reply shall speak for not more than thirty minutes:

Provided further that, when the proceedings of the Senate are being broadcast, no Senator shall speak for more than thirty minutes in any debate, unless otherwise ordered.

In Committee no Senator shall speak for more than a quarter of an hour at any one time on any one Question:

Provided that where the speech of a Senator is interrupted by this provision, and no other Senator rises to speak, the Senator so inter­ rupted may continue his speech for a further quarter of an hour but no longer continuously on any one Question.

It is recommended that the Standing Order be amended by leaving out the first three paragraphs of the Standing Order and inserting the following paragraphs:

"No Senator shall speak for more than thirty minutes in any debate in the Senate. Any Senator may move that the time limit of thirty minutes be extended for fifteen min­ utes; such motion shall forthwith be put without debate.

* "Provided that where a right of reply is allowed in

any debate a Senator speaking in reply shall speak for not more than thirty minutes.

"Provided further that, in debate on the first reading of a Bill which the Senate may not amend, no Senator shall speak for more than fifteen minutes.". *

* Although the speaking time limit for general debate would be changed from one hour to thirty minutes, the limit of thirty minutes for a Senator speaking in reply would be unchanged.

8.

APPENDIX D

Proposed Sessional Order relating to the presentation of petitions.

Notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders, the procedure for the presentation of petitions is varied, as follows:

(1) A Senator wishing to present a petition shall lodge it with the Clerk.

(2) The Clerk shall make an announcement in respect of petitions lodged with him, indicating in respect of each petition the Senator who presents it, the number of signatures, the identity of the petitioners and the subject matter of the petition.

(3) Every petition so presented shall be deemed to have been received by the Senate unless a m o tion, moved forthwith, that a particular petition be not received, be agreed to.

(4) The terms of the petitions presented shall be printed in Hansard.