Chapter 19 - Relations with the executive government

Motions to take note of answers

A motion may be moved without notice or leave at the conclusion of question time to take note of answers (SO 72(4)). A motion may relate to one or more of any answers given that day and a senator may speak for not more than five minutes on it. The total time for debate on all such motions on any day must not exceed 30 minutes, not including any time taken in raising and determining any points of order during the debate. (See statements by President Beahan, SD, 1/3/1994, p. 1163; SD, 7/6/1995, p. 925.) Motions to take note of answers provide the Senate with an opportunity to debate answers which are regarded as unsatisfactory or which raise issues requiring debate.

A relevant amendment may be moved to a motion to take note of an answer, but an amendment to take note of a different answer is not a relevant amendment (ruling of Deputy President West, 24/3/1998, SD pp 1152-3).

The history of this procedure is as follows. During 1992 the Opposition began to make increasing use of the device of moving by leave after question time motions to take note of answers given by ministers. On 14 September 1992 an attempt was made by the government to limit the time spent on motions to take note of answers to questions, by making the granting of leave for moving such motions conditional on the senator seeking the leave speaking for only two minutes. This condition was refused, and leave to move a motion was refused, but this resulted in a motion to suspend standing orders, on which senators can speak for five minutes with a total time limit of 30 minutes. After one such suspension motion was disposed of, leave was granted to move three further motions to take note of answers.

On the following day, 15 September 1992, the Manager of Government Business moved a special motion (J.2760-1) to limit debate on motions to take note of answers to two minutes per speaker and a total of 30 minutes. This motion was agreed to, with an amendment to extend the speaking time to four minutes, on 16 September 1992 (J.2775-7). This motion was expressed to operate for the remainder of the week. It appeared to have had the effect of increasing the number of motions to take note of answers, three such motions being moved on 16 September and five on 17 September. These procedures were agreed to again (J.2817-9; J.2931) for the two sitting weeks in October and the first two sitting weeks of November. On 24 November 1992 (J.3076) the procedures, together with those concerning time limits to questions and answers at question time (see above) were renewed as sessional orders, and in February 1997 incorporated into the standing orders.

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