Chapter 12 - Legislation

Third reading

After the adoption of the report of the committee of the whole, if a bill is proceeding by the traditional deliberate method a future day is fixed for the third reading (SO 122(1)), but if the expeditious method is being followed the motion for the third reading is moved at once.

The motion that this bill be now read a third time is open to debate, and provides the opportunity for the Senate finally to consider the bill as it has emerged from committee of the whole and to accept or reject it. If the Senate is completely dissatisfied with the bill as it has emerged at this stage, this motion is the occasion for the Senate to reject the bill.

Debate on the motion for the third reading should be confined to reasons for then passing or rejecting the bill, but new arguments may be advanced (rulings of President Givens, SD 12/3/1926, p. 1589, 1591; of President Lynch, SD 24/10/1935, pp 1038-9, 13/11/1935, p. 1527).

Only one amendment may be moved to the motion for the third reading. This is the amendment to leave out the word “now” and substitute “this day six months”. If this amendment is carried the bill is disposed of with an indication of finality greater than if the motion for the third reading is simply rejected (SO 122(3); 8/10/1985, J.490; 7/9/2000, J.3260). The rationale of this restriction on amendment is that, by the third reading stage, the Senate should finally decide whether to pass or reject the bill.

Normally the motion for the third reading is not debated, or amended in this way.

The Senate may also use the occasion of the motion for the third reading to recommit the bill to the committee of the whole, in whole or in part (SO 123). When the motion for the third reading is before the Senate, a superseding motion to recommit the bill may be moved. A motion for a bill to be recommitted on the third reading may be moved notwithstanding that such a motion has been moved on the motion for the adoption of the report of the committee (ruling of President Baker, 30/11/1904, J.159). As with the motion for recommittal at the reporting stage (see above), a senator may speak to both the motion for recommittal and the motion for the third reading.

When a bill has been read a third time, proceedings on it are completed and it has passed the Senate (SO 122(4)).

On 22 February 1979 a bill was recommitted, by a suspension of standing orders, after it had been read a third time, to correct amendments which had been erroneously agreed to in committee of the whole (J.561-3). This could be done only where a bill had not been forwarded to the House of Representatives. For the same process effected by a simpler method, see 25/11/2003, J.2722-3. (See Supplement)

Bills have also been recommitted after being negatived and then revived; see below under Revival of bills).

The Chair of Committees is empowered to make amendments of a formal nature in the text of a bill and to correct clerical or typographical errors (SO 124). This procedure is used to make changes to a bill which are clearly required by any amendments which have been agreed to, and to correct any clear errors. The citation of a bill which originated in one year and passed in another may be altered by this means. The procedure may not be used to make changes of substance, which should be made only by amendment in committee of the whole.

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