Chapter 12 - Legislation

House amendments on Senate bills

If the House of Representatives agrees without amendment to a bill originating in the Senate, it is returned to the Senate with a message to that effect and is then forwarded to the Governor-General for assent.

If the House makes amendments to a bill originating in the Senate, the bill is returned with a schedule of the amendments and a message requesting the Senate’s concurrence with the amendments.

Amendments made by the House to Senate bills usually have the effect of reversing amendments which the Senate has made to government bills in the Senate and to which the government has disagreed.

A Senate bill returned from the House is considered with the House’s message in committee of the whole. The committee determines how the House amendments should be dealt with, and reports to the Senate, which may then adopt the course of action agreed to by the committee.

When the committee of the whole reports, the bill and the House’s message may be recommitted by means of an amendment to the motion to adopt the committee’s report (29/11/1912, J.178).

The Senate may, in response to House amendments:

  • agree to the amendments
  • disagree to the amendments
  • agree to the amendments with amendments
  • order the bill to be laid aside (that is, abandon the bill; in the case of a government bill this means, in effect, rejecting the bill) (SO 126(2)).

As in the circumstance of Senate amendments disagreed to by the House (see below, under Disagreement of House with Senate amendments), elements of these courses of action may be combined in one motion, which may then be put in divided form, or separate motions may be moved in relation to different House amendments (Sydney Harbour Federation Trust Bill 2000, 6-7/2/2001, J.3860-1, 3885-93, 3902-3).

Agreement to an amendment made in the House does not preclude an amendment to the motion for the adoption of the report of the committee of the whole expressing the Senate’s opinion on relevant matters (Broadcasting Legislation Amendment Bill 2001, 28/3/2001, J.4118-9).

When House amendments to a bill are considered in committee of the whole, attention is directed exclusively to the amendments and matters relevant to the amendments, and other aspects of the bill are not open for reconsideration. An amendment may not be proposed to an amendment of the House unless it is relevant to it, and a further amendment to the bill may not be moved unless it is relevant to, or consequent on, the acceptance, amendment or rejection of a House amendment (SO 126(3)). This rule ensures that, when a bill is returned, further consideration of it is confined to the matters of disagreement between the Houses and attention is focused on attempting to secure agreement on those matters. (An exposition of the similar rule applying to bills originating in the House of Representatives (see below) was provided by President Baker, SD, 11/6/1903, pp 759-60. This rule does not apply to requests for amendments to bills originating in the House of Representatives: see Chapter 13, Financial Legislation, under Procedure on financial legislation.)

For a suspension of standing orders to allow the moving of new amendments to a bill not relevant to amendments made by the House, see International War Crimes Tribunal Bill, 1/2/1995, J.2822.

For the putting of further amendments consisting of the omission of clauses or items, see below under Disagreement of House with Senate amendments

If House amendments to a Senate bill are agreed to, the House is informed by message accordingly and the bill proceeds to the Governor-General with those amendments (SO 126(4)).

If the Senate amends the House amendments, the bill is returned to the House and its concurrence with the Senate’s amendments is sought (SO 126(5)).

If the Senate disagrees to House amendments, it may lay the bill aside or return it to the House of Representatives asking the House to reconsider its amendments (SO 126(6)).

If the Senate disagrees to House amendments, the message to the House includes a statement of the Senate’s reasons for not agreeing to the amendments. There are two methods of drawing up the statement of reasons; a committee may be appointed to do so, or a motion without notice may be moved to adopt a statement of reasons (SO 126(7), (8)). Usually the latter method is employed.

If the House of Representatives again returns the bill indicating that the House:

(a)      insists on its original amendments to which the Senate has disagreed;

(b) disagrees to amendments made by the Senate on the original amendments of the House of Representatives; or

(c) agrees to amendments made by the Senate on the original amendments of the House of Representatives, with further amendments,

the bill and the House’s message are considered in committee of the whole, and the Senate may:

(d)          agree, with or without amendment, to the amendments to which it had previously disagreed, and make, if necessary, consequential amendments to the bill;

(e)           insist on its disagreement to such amendments;

(f)            withdraw its amendments and agree to the original amendments of the House of Representatives;

(g)           make further amendments to the bill consequent upon the rejection of its amendments;

(h)           propose new amendments as alternative to the amendments to which the House of Representatives has disagreed;

(i)             insist on its amendments to which the House of Representatives has disagreed;

(j)            agree, with or without amendment, to such further amendments of the House of Representatives, making consequential amendments to the bill, if necessary; or

(k)          disagree to the further amendments and insist on its own amendments which the House of Representatives has amended. (SO 127(1))

These procedures, while focussing attention on the matters of disagreement between the Houses, give the Senate maximum freedom to seek agreement on those matters (an exposition of the similar procedures applying to bills originating in the House (see below) was provided by President Baker, SD, 8/12/1904, pp 8062-3).

If the Senate agrees to the actions of the House of Representatives, the House is so informed and the bill proceeds accordingly.

If the Senate does not agree with the actions of the House and the House of Representatives still does not agree with the course of action taken by the Senate, the Senate may order the bill to be laid aside or request a conference with the House (SO 127(1); for conferences, see Chapter 21, Relations with the House of Representatives, under Conferences).

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