Chapter 9 - Motions and amendments

Rescission of resolutions and orders

A resolution or order of the Senate may be rescinded only if seven days’ notice is given of the rescission motion and if the motion is carried by an absolute majority of senators (SO 87).

A rescission properly so called has the retrospective effect of annulling or quashing a decision from the time that decision was made as if it had never been made. Rescission motions are therefore rare: it is seldom the intention to achieve that effect.

It is not necessary to rescind a resolution or order if the intention is simply to cease the operation of the resolution or order prospectively; this can be done by a new resolution or order and does not require a rescission motion.

The Senate and committees frequently make decisions which reverse or modify previous decisions with prospective effect. Such amending decisions are not treated as rescissions or as in any way different from other decisions which have a prospective effect. For example, the Senate may agree to an order that it meet on a particular day but subsequently alter the times of its meetings so that it does not meet on that day. This is not regarded as a rescission of the original decision, but simply as an amendment or modification of it with effect for the future. Similarly, a committee which has agreed to part of a draft report may decide to reconsider that part without rescinding its original agreement to it. Many decisions of this character are frequently made. At one time it was thought that the presence in an order of the words “unless otherwise ordered” was vital to the ability to change a decision in this way, but decisions have been altered regardless of the absence or presence of those words, and they are not now usually used in orders of the Senate.

In the distant past procedural difficulties ensued when rescission was thought, mistakenly, to be necessary. Rescission motions were occasionally used, instead of a suspension of standing orders, to circumvent the rule against considering a proposal the same as one already determined (see Same question rule, below).

Under section 48 of the Legislative Instruments Act 2003, an instrument that has been disallowed by a House of the Parliament may not be remade within six months of the disallowance unless the disallowing House has rescinded its resolution of disallowance. Motions for the purposes of the equivalent provision in the past were regarded as rescission motions within the meaning of standing order 87, and therefore as requiring seven days’ notice and an absolute majority. As such a motion, however, in effect gives permission for the remaking of a disallowed instrument and therefore has only a prospective effect, it is not technically a rescission motion and is now not subject to those requirements (13/5/2004, J.3415). (See Supplement)

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