Chapter 10 - Debate

Dividing the question

The President may divide a complicated question (SO 84(3)). A question is divided only if the parts of the question are capable of a distinct decision by the Senate. This may be done where preliminary words in a motion have to be understood as preceding each part of the motion (16/3/1988, J.557) (see Supplement). In practice, the chair divides a question which is capable of being divided at the request of any senator, so that no senator is compelled to vote for or against two or more proposals in relation to which they may wish to vote differently (statement by Acting Deputy President Vanstone, SD, 12/11/1991, pp 2940-2). This procedure is particularly used where, by a previous decision, distinct questions, such as questions for the passage of different bills, have been combined. If a senator moves an amendment to one question which has been combined with another question, the amendment and the distinct questions are put separately (3/12/1985, J.684-5, 687-8; 4/12/1985, J.694-5, 696-8; 16, 17, 21/10/1986, J.1320, 1323, 1324-5, 1340-3). The chair may decline to divide a question if the request is not made for the purpose of protecting the right of a senator to vote differently on the component questions (statement by President Reid, SD, 23/6/1999, p. 6133; request to divide a question declined on the stated principle: SD, 25/9/2001, p. 27835; SD, 2/12/2005, pp 205-6). Unless this principle is adhered to, a limitation of time could be subverted by divisions on every question and amendment before the chair, in some cases resulting in hundreds of divisions.

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