Chapter 21 - Committees of the Whole

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148  Report of committee

  1. When all matters referred to a committee have been considered, the chairman shall be directed to report to the Senate, and when the consideration of those matters has not been concluded, the chairman may be directed to report progress and ask leave to sit again.

  2. A motion may be made at any time during the proceedings of a committee that the chairman report progress and ask leave to sit again.

  3. Resolutions reported from a committee may be agreed to or disagreed to by the Senate, or agreed to with amendments, recommitted to the committee, or the further consideration of them postponed.

Amendment history

Adopted: 19 August 1903 as SOs 270, 271 and 274 (corresponding to paragraphs (1), (2) and (3)) but renumbered as SOs 266, 267 and 270 for the first printed edition

1989 revision: Old SOs 278, 279 and 282 combined into one, structured as three paragraphs and renumbered as SO 148

Commentary

If a report from committee of the whole is not generated automatically by one of the triggers in SOs 146 (disorder, interruption by other business at a fixed time) or 147 (lack of a quorum), it is generated by a motion either (on completion of its business) that the bill, resolution or other conclusion be reported, or that the committee report progress and ask leave to sit again. When that question has been agreed to, the President resumes the chair and the Chair of Committees reports what the committee has done.

A motion that the committee report progress may be moved by any senator, but it is subject to the restrictions imposed by SO 144(6) that it cannot be moved within 15 minutes of having been moved previously and is not open to debate. These restrictions limit vexatious use of the procedure as a method of disrupting proceedings in committee.

When a committee reports progress and seeks leave to sit again, a motion to provide for the committee to resume (for example, on the next day of sitting or at a later hour) is moved immediately, usually by a minister but not necessarily so.

An example of a pro forma report from committee of the whole, reporting progress following a motion to that effect

An example of a pro forma report from committee of the whole, reporting progress following a motion to that effect

When a committee has concluded its business and the outcome has been reported, paragraph (3) sets out the Senate’s options in responding to the report. The Senate’s response is initiated by a motion, “That the report of the committee be adopted”. Its options include:

  • agreement with the committee’s actions or resolution;

  • disagreement;

  • adjournment of the matter to another time;

  • amendment of the motion to express an opinion or initiate use of the Senate’s powers to, for example, refer a matter to a committee for inquiry, order the production of documents or provide for future consideration of the matter; or

  • superseding the motion with a motion to recommit the matter for further consideration.

There is no prescribed form for the report of a committee of the whole. Before 1989, reports were made orally by the Chair to the President who then repeated the substance of the report to the Senate in order that a motion could be moved for its adoption. While this practice may have been acceptable in the borrowed Legislative Council chamber in Melbourne and in the modestly proportioned Senate chamber in Old Parliament House, the Chair’s report was inaudible to most senators and certainly to the public in the new larger chamber on Capital Hill. The repetition by the President of the Chair’s report also appeared unnecessarily ceremonial. A change in practice was agreed to by the President and Deputy President in August 1989. Henceforth, the Chair would hand a written report to the President which would be read from the President’s Chair in the Senate. Written reports were already in use for complicated proceedings but for all future proceedings clerks at the table would prepare written reports using pro formas and filling in the blank spaces by hand.[1] By convention, Chairs stand to deliver a report from the committee of the whole.

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