Government and general business
Government business (business initiated by ministers) takes precedence over general business (business initiated by other senators) at all times except for two and a half hours on Thursday at the stage indicated in the routine of business. In addition, under a temporary order agreed to in late 2010, general business orders of the day for the consideration of bills take precedence over all other business for a period of two hours and 20 minutes on Thursday mornings. This arrangement gives effect to agreements reached after the 2010 election between the government and independent and minor party members for greater opportunities for the consideration of private members' and senators' bills.
During the three “quarantined” periods for government business, 12.30 pm to 2 pm on Mondays and Tuesdays and 9.30 am to 12.45 pm on Wednesdays, only government business may be transacted, and everything else requires leave or a suspension of standing orders.
Ministers occasionally initiate business with an indication that they do so in a private and not a ministerial capacity. Such business is entered on the Notice Paper as general business.
A motion for the consideration or adoption of the report of a committee of the Senate and any government statement on such a report takes precedence over other general business on the day on which it is set down for consideration.
In practice, the order of business is usually rearranged to determine the items of general business which will be considered each Thursday. This is often done by a motion moved by a minister under standing order 56; the items of business specified in such a motion are the only items to be considered during the available time. The items to be considered are usually determined by agreement between the non-government parties in the Senate. Committee reports are usually not considered at the time for general business, but in accordance with the special provisions for their consideration under standing order 62 (see below).
If a business of the Senate item is under consideration or not reached at the time for the commencement of general business, it takes precedence in accordance with standing order 58, except for the period on Thursday mornings when, under a temporary order, only general business orders of the day for the consideration of bills may be dealt with.
The Senate may extend the time for consideration of general business.