Chapter 10 - Debate

Reading of speeches

A senator may not read a speech (SO 187).

The rationale of the prohibition on the reading of speeches is that reading speeches destroys real debate, which is intended to be an exchange of views and arguments, and that if speeches are read there is greater danger of abuse of proceedings by senators delivering speeches written by others.

This prohibition is modified by well-established practices. It is not applied when a senator is formally making a statement giving the considered views of a committee, the ministry or of a party, for example, a chair of a committee making a statement on behalf of the committee, a minister delivering a second reading speech on a bill or a ministerial statement, or a senator making a statement on behalf of a party. Senators referring to intricate or technical matters may also read parts of their speeches, and, particularly in that circumstance, may refer to copious notes. It is for the chair to determine when these practices apply and whether the prohibition is breached (ruling of President McMullin, SD, 21/8/1969, p. 231).

On several occasions there were attempts to remove the prohibition on the reading of speeches and to qualify the practices whereby the prohibition is modified, but these proposals were rejected by the Senate.

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