Chapter 20 - Bills

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127  Bill again returned from the House of Representatives

  1. If the House of Representatives returns a bill with a message informing the Senate that it:

    1. insists on its original amendments to which the Senate has disagreed;

    2. disagrees to amendments made by the Senate on the original amendments of the House of Representatives; or

    3. agrees to amendments made by the Senate on the original amendments of the House of Representatives, with further amendments,

    the Senate may:

    1. agree, with or without amendment, to the amendments to which it had previously disagreed, and make, if necessary, consequent amendments to the bill;

    2. insist on its disagreement to such amendments;

    3. withdraw its amendments and agree to the original amendments of the House of Representatives;

    4. make further amendments to the bill consequent upon the rejection of its amendments;

    5. propose new amendments as alternative to the amendments to which the House of Representatives has disagreed;

    6. insist on its amendments to which the House of Representatives has disagreed;

    7. agree, with or without amendment, to such further amendments of the House of Representatives, making consequent amendments to the bill, if necessary; or

    8. disagree to the further amendments and insist on its own amendments which the House of Representatives has amended,

    and if agreement is not reached or if the bill is again returned by the House of Representatives with any of the requirements of the Senate still disagreed to, the Senate shall order the bill to be laid aside, or request a conference.

  2. When the requirements of the House of Representatives in the bill have been finally agreed to, a message shall be sent informing the House of Representatives accordingly.

  3. The Clerk shall, at every stage, certify on the first page of the bill the action taken by the Senate.

Amendment history

Adopted: 19 August 1903 as SOs 222, 223 and 224 (corresponding to paragraphs (1) to (3)) but renumbered as SOs 221 to 223 for the first printed edition

1989 revision: Old SOs 228 to 230 combined into one, structured as three paragraphs and renumbered as SO 127; language modernised and subparagraphs used to clarify structure

Commentary

This standing order follows on from the previous one in setting out the actions that may be taken by the Senate when a disagreement with the House of Representatives over a bill originating in the Senate has not been resolved by the first exchange of messages under SO 126. Such impasses are rare and would now occur only when a determined non-government majority controlled the Senate and persisted in taking a contrary view on the terms of government legislation.

For bills introduced in the Senate, there is no constitutional method available for resolving a deadlock. This standing order provides final steps that may be taken to reach agreement. If they fail, the Senate “shall order the bill to be laid aside, or request a conference”. There is thus a limit on efforts which may be taken to reach agreement on Senate bills when the Senate and the House are at odds. A government unable to get a bill which it has initiated in the Senate passed by that House always has the option of introducing it in the lower House and following the steps provided by s.57 of the Constitution. On only one occasion has a conference been requested on a Senate bill. The request was refused by the House. For details, see Odgers’ Australian Senate Practice, 12th edition, p.542.

The procedures available under this standing order were well understood, based as they were on the practices of the colonial legislatures which were all bicameral. They were agreed to without debate in 1903 and have not been substantively amended.

Even though they represent final steps that may be taken, these procedures nonetheless provide maximum flexibility in order to reach agreement, including by providing for earlier decisions to be revisited and reversed in appropriate circumstances. For precedents, see Australian Senate Practice, 6th edition, pp.490–91.

As is the case under SO 126, messages to the House and Clerk’s certificates under this standing order reflect the action taken by the Senate.

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