Chapter 33 - Effect and suspension of standing orders

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209  Motion for suspension

  1. In cases of urgent necessity, standing or other orders of the Senate may be suspended on motion without notice, if the motion is carried by an absolute majority of the whole number of senators.

  2. When notice has been given of a motion for the suspension of a standing or other order, the motion may be carried by a majority of senators voting.

  3. A motion for the suspension of standing or other orders moved during the consideration of a matter must be relevant to that matter.

  4. On a motion for the suspension of a standing or other order a senator shall not speak for more than 5 minutes, and if the debate is not concluded at the expiration of 30 minutes after the moving of the motion the question on the motion shall then be put.

Amendment history

Adopted: 19 August 1903 as SOs 438 and 439 (corresponding to paragraphs (1) and (2)) but renumbered as SOs 433 and 434 for the first printed edition

Amended:

  • 26 November 1981, J.716–17 (requirement for motion to be seconded removed)
  • 13 February 1997, J.1447 (to take effect 24 February 1997) (paragraph (4) added, incorporating part of sessional order on reference of bills to committees concerning time limits on debate)

1989 revision: Old SOs 448 and 449 combined, structured as two paragraphs and renumbered as SO 209; paragraph (3) added to make explicit a procedural rule implicit in rulings of the President; expression streamlined and language modernised

Commentary

In essence, SO 209 provides two methods for suspending standing orders when the Senate wishes to follow a path other than that set out in the standing orders. For example, for decades the standing orders providing for different stages of bills to be considered on different days were suspended to enable bills to proceed through all stages without delay. In many cases, standing orders have been suspended to allow a new and urgent item of business, not on the Notice Paper, to be dealt with immediately. In other cases, a procedural requirement has been waived by the suspension of the relevant standing order; for example, to allow the Senate to make further amendments to a bill originating in the House that are not consequent on the rejection of its amendments or an alternative to rejected amendments (see SO 132).

A motion to suspend standing orders requires the support of an absolute majority of the Senate (39 affirmative votes) if moved without notice. In 1968–69, controversy arose over the validity of the requirement for an absolute majority of senators to support motions for the suspension of standing orders. Rulings of the President that motions for the suspension of standing orders had failed for want of an absolute majority were dissented from on two occasions. On 21 May 1969, the day after the second dissent, President McMullin made a statement to the Senate indicating that he felt bound to take note of the Senate’s twice-expressed dissent and would regard any requirements in the standing orders for special majorities (other than those required by the Constitution) as being in abeyance unless otherwise directed.[1] The requirement for an absolute majority was subsequently adhered to without dissent and has been accepted as being in force. For further discussion, see Odgers’ Australian Senate Practice, 12th edition, p.220 and Australian Senate Practice 6th edition, pp.393–99. Note that the correspondence reproduced in Appendix 13 was not known at the time of the 1968–69 controversy.

A motion to suspend standing orders that is moved on notice or by leave requires only a simple majority; that is, a majority of senators present and voting. For the use of contingent notices for the suspension of standing orders, see Odgers’ Australian Senate Practice, 12th edition, pp.167–69.

Paragraph (3) appeared in the second version of the revised standing orders, tabled in November 1989.[2] It made explicit a procedural rule implicit in rulings of the President which held that suspension motions moved during the consideration of a matter must be relevant to that matter. Thus, if a suspension is moved in committee of the whole, it must be relevant to the matter before the committee.

Paragraph (4) had its origins in a recommendation of the Procedure Committee in its Second Report for the Sixty–Third Session (PP No. 215/1987). Following a two-hour debate on a motion to suspend standing orders on 23 October 1987, peppered with points of order, the committee had examined a proposal for suspension motions to be either not debatable or subject to a timed debate.[3] Having examined the practice in the House of Representatives, the committee recommended a maximum of 30 minutes debate with 5 minutes per speaker. A motion to adopt the committee’s recommendation as a sessional order was moved and briefly debated in February 1988 but was never put to the vote.[4] Subsequently, the Select Committee on Legislation Procedures repeated the recommendation in the context of applying the same time limits to debates on motions for the reference of bills to committees.[5] The select committee’s recommendations were adopted on 5 December 1989 as sessional orders, and renewed as such until they were incorporated into the standing orders in 1997.[6]

Contingent notices of motion for the suspension of standing orders are published in the Notice Paper
Contingent notices of motion for the suspension of standing orders are published in the Notice Paper

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