Chapter 31 - Conduct of Senators and rules of debate

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196  Tedious repetition

The President or the Chairman of Committees may call the attention of the Senate or the committee, as the case may be, to continued irrelevance or tedious repetition, and may direct a senator to discontinue a speech, but that senator may require that the question whether the senator be further heard be put, and then that question shall be put without debate.

Amendment history

Adopted: 19 August 1903 as SO 412 but renumbered as SO 407 for the first printed edition

1989 revision: Old SO 421 renumbered as SO 196; masculine pronouns removed, expression streamlined.

Commentary

Standing order 196 reflects a procedure commonly available in the colonial legislatures as a safeguard against what the early senators referred to as “stone-walling” and which would now be called “filibustering”.[1] In choosing a model, the Senate chose the one that showed greater respect for the rights of individual senators. The standing orders of the Victorian and South Australian legislative assemblies (with some variations between them) provided for the Speaker to warn a member about persistent irrelevance or tedious repetition, after which any member could move a motion to the effect that the member no longer be heard. This motion was required to be put immediately without debate. The NSW model, which the Senate followed, provided for the Speaker to direct a member to discontinue a speech on the grounds of continued irrelevance or tedious repetition. In this case, the affected member could require the Speaker to put a question, that the member be further heard, and the result of that vote determined the member’s fate. Alternatively, if the member chose not to test the mood of the House, the member could accept the Speaker’s direction and discontinue his or her speech.[2]

These mechanisms for stopping tediously repetitive debate had more relevance in the days before speeches were subject to time limits. Even then, this standing order was only rarely invoked, one example dating from 1923.[3] It has not been applied in recent decades, even though it is occasionally invoked in points of order.

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