Chapter 12 - Legislation


The standing orders provide two alternative methods for the introduction of a bill and for the treatment of a bill received from the House of Representatives. There is a traditional deliberate method, and a method whereby bills may be taken expeditiously to the stage of the second reading being moved.

Under the deliberate method, a bill may be initiated in the Senate by:

(a) a motion moved on notice granting leave to a senator to bring in the bill

(b) a motion moved on notice forming a committee of senators to prepare and bring in a bill, in accordance with any instructions given to the committee

(c) an order of the Senate, agreed to by a motion on notice, that a specified bill be brought in (SO 111(1)).

Procedures (b) and (c) are designed to allow the Senate to direct the introduction of bill without relying on an individual senator taking the initiative to introduce a bill, but in practice are now not used.

A senator authorised to bring in a bill under procedure (a) may present it immediately, or at a subsequent stage in the proceedings when there is no other business before the chair. The bill as presented must conform with the title of the bill as specified in the motion authorising the senator to introduce it, and a bill which is contrary to that requirement is out of order (SO 111(3), (4)). There is usually no ground for this rule to be invoked, and the Senate would not be aware of any irregularity in a bill until there had been opportunity to examine it.

A bill originating in the House of Representatives is received from that House with a message requesting the Senate’s concurrence with the bill. The President reports the message when there is no other business before the Senate, and the bill is then dealt with in the same way as a bill introduced by a senator (SO 128). The President is required to report a message from the House of Representatives “as early as convenient” (SO 155). In practice a message forwarding a bill is reported when the minister in the Senate representing the minister responsible for the bill in the House indicates that the government is ready to proceed with the bill (for precedents of a message made an order of the day: 14/12/1988, J.1309; a message not acted on, bill superseded: 1/6/1990, J.205; message not acted on pending government negotiations with other parties: 20/6/2002, J.423; message not acted on, bill abandoned by government: 14/8/2006, J.2463, 2474).

The expeditious method of dealing with a bill provides a procedure whereby a bill, whether introduced by a senator or received from the House of Representatives, may proceed at once to the stage of the motion for the second reading being moved, and whereby a number of bills may be taken together.

A senator may present a bill or two or more bills together after the passage of a motion, moved on notice, that the bill or bills be introduced. After the presentation of the bill or bills, or after receipt of a message from the House of Representatives, a motion may be moved without notice containing any of the following provisions:

(a) that the bill or bills may proceed without formalities (this has the effect of suspending the requirements, otherwise imposed by the standing orders, for stages of the passage of the bill or bills to take place on different days, for notice of motions for such stages, and for the printing and certification of the bill or bills during passage)

(b) in respect of two or more bills, that the bills may be taken together (this has the effect of allowing the questions for the several stages of the passage of the bills (or any of them) to be put in one motion at each stage, and the consideration of the bills (or any of them) together in committee of the whole (at each reading only the short titles of bills taken together are read))

(c) that the bill, or, where the provision referred to in paragraph (b) is agreed to, the bills, be now read a first time (SO 113(1), (2)).

The Senate may reject any of the motions which may be moved under this procedure, and at the request of any senator the motions are put separately, so that senators are able to vote for or against any of the motions (SO 113(3)). If the Senate were to reject the motion moved under paragraph (a), this would have the effect of imposing on the passage of a bill the delays provided by the standing orders for a bill proceeded with by the traditional method. (See Supplement). If the Senate were to reject the motion moved under paragraph (b), two or more bills introduced together would have to proceed separately after that stage. (See Supplement) It is also possible for the Senate to reject the motion for the first reading of a bill under this procedure. (For instances of the questions being considered separately, see migration bills, 20/9/2001, J.4900-1; textile, clothing and footwear bills, 7/12/2004, J.236.)

The composite motion may be moved only immediately after the receipt or introduction of bills; leave or a suspension of standing orders is required to move it at any other stage (Marriage Amendment Bill 2004, 13/8/2004, J.3927-8).

The first two elements of the composite motion under standing order 113(2), to provide that a bill may proceed without formalities and that bills may be taken together, are regarded as procedural motions, and, therefore, if they are debated, there is no right of reply.

Bills are frequently taken together, particularly in related “packages” of bills, but at the request of any senator the question for the passage of any stage of such bills is divided and put separately in respect of the separate bills (see Chapter 10, Debate, under Dividing the question). A senator may move at any time that bills which are being taken together be separated (8/6/1989, J.1842). The basis of this is that the order is that the bills may be taken together, and the Senate may decide that they should proceed separately. Bills may be separated by adjournment at different stages (12/3/1991, J.852; 16/6/2003, J.1851).

If bills are not taken together on introduction, however, a special order, moved on notice or by leave, is required to take them together subsequently (29/5/1989, J.1734; 8/6/1989, J.1835; 13/6/1989, J.1862; 17/8/1989, J.1948; 11/10/2000, J.3364; 27/11/2000, J.3583; 13/8/2004, J.3922-3). Bills at different stages have been taken together by this means (18/5/1993, J.175-6; 26/5/1993, J.267). For a bill negatived at the second reading, revived and taken together with other bills, see 10/9/2003, J.2329. Bills not yet received from the House may be put together with bills already in the Senate (12/9/2005, J.1073-4). (See Supplement)

When bills or packages of bills are ordered to be taken together other than under standing order 113(2)(b), at the second or third reading stages, a senator who has spoken in the debate on one of the bills or packages but not the other may speak again when debate is resumed after the passage of the order. (See SD, 12/9/2005, p. 9.) This rule is necessary to preserve the right of each senator to speak to all of the bills. This right would also be exercisable when bills which have reached different stages are ordered to be taken together, and are brought to the same stage before proceeding together.

When there are amendments to be moved to bills taken together, the bills are considered separately in committee of the whole.

Bills which are not taken together are sometimes debated together at the second reading stage by leave. This is known as a “cognate debate”.

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