Chapter 13 - Financial legislation

Decision as to amendments or requests

The Chair of Committees may decide in the first instance whether an amendment should take the form of a request (ruling of President Baker, SD, 3/10/1906, pp 5966-8), but ultimately it is for the Senate to decide whether to proceed by way of amendment or request.

In June 2000 the Senate adopted a resolution requiring all amendments circulated in the Senate chamber in the form of requests to be accompanied by a statement of reasons for the amendments being framed as requests together with a statement by the Clerk on whether the amendments would be regarded as requests under the precedents of the Senate (26/6/2000, J.2899). This resolution followed a series of cases of government drafters presenting amendments as requests inappropriately and failing to respond to requests for explanations for so doing.

For the assistance of senators, the Senate Department classifies and marks bills as follows:

A — contains a provision appropriating money

AA — amends an act which contains a standing appropriation of money*

T — affects taxation but does not appear to impose a new tax or to increase an existing tax*

IT — appears to impose a new tax or to increase an existing tax*

N — does not attract any of these classifications*

* if more than one act is amended by the bill, the amendments to the acts are classified in accordance with these marks.

For cases of bills stated by government not to be bills imposing taxation, but treated by the Senate as bills imposing taxation, see above, under When requests are required: (a) bills imposing taxation.

Until late 1994 it was the practice of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel (the government drafters) to place marks on the bottom right hand corner of the first page of bills to indicate a view of their category. The marks were as follows:

MM — indicating a bill requiring a message from the Governor‑General recommending an appropriation of loan moneys

MR — indicating a bill requiring a message from the Governor‑General recommending an appropriation of revenue

MRM — indicating a bill requiring a message from the Governor‑General recommending an appropriation of revenue and loan moneys

T — indicating a bill dealing with taxation, but not imposing tax

T* — indicating a bill imposing taxation

O — none of the above.

Where a bill required a message from the Governor‑General recommending an appropriation and was also a bill with respect to taxation, the mark placed on the first page was a mark composed of the marks relevant to each aspect of the bill.

These classifications were not necessarily accepted by the Senate. Bills marked T* were not always regarded as imposing taxation, as often they merely amended statutes which imposed taxation without affecting the tax. Bills which clearly proposed fees for services were often marked T* (Overseas Students Charge Bill 1985, 29/11/1985, J.661).

During the controversy over the 1993 taxation bills (see above), it was pointed out that the drafters’ classification of taxation bills often did not conform with the views then expounded by the Attorney-General’s Department. In late 1994 the Office of Parliamentary Counsel abandoned the practice of placing marks on bills.

Cases of government amendments wrongly circulated as requests have been considered above in relation to the various categories of bills. Usually this arises because of inconsistent interpretations by government advisers of the constitutional provisions. Occasionally, however, even after the resolution of the Senate of 26 June 2000, government amendments which should be requests are mistakenly circulated as amendments (Taxation Laws Amendment (Research and Development) Bill 2000, SD, 27/9/2001, p. 28271).

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