Odgers' Australian Senate Practice Thirteenth Edition

Chapter 8 - Conduct of proceedings

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Curtailment of non-government business

The Senate sometimes dispenses with some or all of the elements of general business on Thursdays, usually to devote more time to government business.

If general business is dispensed with in advance by special order on Thursdays, government business automatically occurs at that time. This is because standing order 59 provides that general business takes precedence over government business at the time provided on Thursdays, but does not require that only general business be considered at that time. Business of the Senate takes precedence over both except on Thursday mornings under the 2010 temporary order. If, however, general business is not dispensed with by special order but is called on and concludes early, the consideration of committee reports then occurs and the question for the adjournment is then proposed in accordance with standing order 54(4). Dispensing with any element of business on Thursday afternoons after the commencement of general business has the same effect of the adjournment being proposed early. The basis of this distinction is that, once general business has commenced, there is no provision in the routine of business for government business to be resumed, and there is therefore an expectation that there will be no further government business considered that day. In contrast, if consideration of orders of the day for private senators’ bills on Thursday mornings under the temporary order was dispensed with, the “normal” routine for Thursday mornings would be restored. For government business called on by leave after the conclusion of general business, see proceedings on 24 June 2010. The unsatisfactory nature of these proceedings was the subject of criticism in debate.[31]

If consideration of government documents at 6.50 pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays is dispensed with by special order this results in the business before the Senate at 6.50 pm running to 7.20 pm. The basis of this is that there is then nothing to prevent the continuation of that business, and there is no possibility of senators being caught unawares by the resumption of business as there is on Thursdays.


On the same basis, if general business and consideration of committee reports on Thursdays are both dispensed with by special order together and in advance of their commencement, government business runs to 8 pm.[32]

If there are no orders of the day relating to committee reports or government documents but consideration of them is not dispensed with by order, this is regarded as the equivalent of the item being called on and concluding early.

31. J.3775, 3776; SD, p. 4414.
32. For precedent, see 21/9/2011, J.1528-9.