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Odgers' Australian Senate Practice Thirteenth Edition

Chapter 5 - Officers of the Senate: parliamentary administration

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Rulings of the Chair

The President, Deputy President or senator in the chair may give a ruling on any question of order, whether or not a point of order is raised by a senator. A ruling may be an interpretation or application of a standing order or may be made in the absence of provision in the standing orders. The early decision of the Senate not to adopt a standing order providing for the usages of the House of Commons to be observed in the absence of other provision, but rather to build up its own rules, forms, and practices, has necessarily resulted in many President’s rulings.[39] It is established Senate practice that, where there may be doubt with respect to the interpretation of a rule or order, the chair leans towards a ruling which preserves or strengthens the powers of the Senate and the rights of senators rather than one which may weaken or lessen those powers and rights.

A President’s ruling which has not been dissented from is equivalent to a resolution of the Senate and must be complied with.[40]

It is the chair’s duty to see that the powers and immunities of the Senate, as provided by the Constitution, are observed, but unless the conduct of the business of the Senate is at issue the chair ought not to be called upon to decide a question involving the interpretation of the Constitution.[41]

It is not the duty of the chair to determine the constitutionality of a standing order, but to carry it out.[42] Nor is it the chair’s duty to adjudicate upon points of law;[43] to decide technical legalities of interpretation in any bill; to compel the government to table regulations; or to decide whether a regulation is null and void; to judge the correctness or otherwise of statements made by senators;[44] or to interpret the standing orders of, or the procedure on a bill in, the House of Representatives.[45]

See also Chapter 10, Debate, under Questions of order. For objection to a ruling of the President, see Chapter 10, Debate, under that heading.

39. See Chapter 1, under Rules and Orders.
40. Ruling of President Baker, SD, 4/10/1906, pp. 6089-90; rulings of President Gould, SD, 9/8/1907, pp. 1690-1; 18/10/1907, p. 4909.
41. Rulings of President Baker, SD, 1/8/1901, p. 3375; 1/7/1903, p. 1595; 11/8/1904, p. 4127; 15/12/1904, p. 8571; ruling of President Mattner, SD, 11/9/1952, p. 1265.
42. Ruling of President Gould, SD, 25/11/1908, p. 2158.
43. Rulings of President Kingsmill, SD, 26/3/1931, p. 630; 28/10/1931, p. 1258, 1273.
44. Rulings of President Givens, SD, 22/7/1915, p. 5230; 6/12/1916, p. 9390; 25/7/1917, p. 415.
45. Ruling of President Baker, SD, 8/12/1905, pp. 6538-42.