Chapter 19 - Relations with the executive government

Supplementary questions

Following a minister’s reply, the questioner or any other senator may, in the discretion of the chair, be called to ask a supplementary question in order to elucidate the reply. Usually there is only one supplementary question by the questioner, but the number and the questioner is in the discretion of the chair.

Supplementary questions must relate to or arise from the answer. It is not in order to ask a supplementary question to another minister. A supplementary question must be directed to the minister initially answering the question and when a minister has asked that a question be put on notice a supplementary question may not be asked. (SD, 9/10/1973, p. 1060; 13/12/1973, p. 2778; 6/3/1974, p. 51; 22/5/1979, p. 1895; 22/8/1979, p. 101; 6/5/1982, p. 1913.)

Supplementary questions were introduced in the Senate on the initiative of the chair. In 1973 President Cormack decided that, within reasonable limits, he would allow supplementary questions to elucidate an answer already given.

In 1980 the Standing Orders Committee considered the question of whether senators ought to be allowed to ask supplementary questions in relation to answers which are given by ministers after the termination of question time. It was recommended that, if senators wish to ask further questions in relation to these deferred answers, they should do so either by asking leave to do so, when the answer is given, or by asking their questions in the normal way at question time on a subsequent day. The Standing Orders Committee’s report was noted by the Senate (26/2/1981, J.109).

On 14 April 1986 President McClelland made a statement concerning the use of supplementary questions. After noting that supplementary questions began in 1973, the President stated:

Since that time successive Presidents have consistently ruled that supplementary questions are appropriate only for the purposes of elucidating information arising from the original question and answer. They are not appropriate for the purpose of introducing additional or new material or proposing a new question, even though such a question might be related to the subject matter of the original question.

It is my impression that recently attempts have been made to extend the scope of supplementary questions by the use of what I would call double‑barrelled questions; the second, the supplementary question, being held back for asking, virtually irrespective of the answer to the original. I do not believe that is a proper use of the supplementary question procedure which I remind senators is completely within the control of the chair. (SD, p. 1633)

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