Odgers' Australian Senate Practice Thirteenth Edition

Chapter 9 - Motions and amendments

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Notice of motion

Motions cannot be moved unless at least one sitting day’s notice has been given,[2] except for motions which the standing orders authorise to be moved without notice. Notice of a motion is given by a senator stating its terms to the Senate and handing a signed copy to the Clerk, or by lodging the copy only, at the time provided in the routine of business for the giving of notices. Notices cannot be given at any other time except by leave of the Senate, but an exception to this rule is a notice of motion to refer a matter to one of the legislative and general purpose standing committees.[3]

If the Senate dispenses with or alters the routine of business in such a way as to supersede the time for giving notice, this removes only the opportunity to give notices orally, and senators may still lodge notices in writing. This is significant in respect of disallowance motions, where the time for giving notice is statutorily limited for most kinds of delegated legislation.[4]

Notice is not required for the following motions:

  1. for the adjournment of the Senate, when moved by or on behalf of a minister under SO 53(2)
  2. connected with the conduct of the business of the Senate, when moved by a minister under SO 56
  3. to determine the postponement till another day of business for which a senator has lodged a postponement notification under SO 67
  4. for the reference of a bill to a committee after the second reading under SO 115(2)
  5. for a bill to be taken to the stage of the second reading being moved, without the delays otherwise imposed by the standing orders under SO 113(2)
  6. for the consideration of a bill as an urgent bill, and subsequent motions, when moved by a minister under SO 142
  7. for the chair of the committee of the whole to report progress and ask leave to sit again under SO 148(2)
  8. for a message to be sent to the House of Representatives communicating a resolution of the Senate under SO 154
  9. for a petition not to be received under SO 69(3)
  10. for taking note of a document presented by a minister after prayers under SO 61
  11. relating to a committee report, at the times allocated on Wednesday and Thursday for the consideration of reports then presented under SO 62(4)
  12. in relation to a question or an estimates question on notice, or an order for documents, not answered within 30 days, after a minister is asked to explain that failure under SO 74(5) and 164(3)
  13. in relation to a committee report on a bill, when the bill is considered under SO 115(5)
  14. for the recommittal of a bill, at the report and third reading stages under SO 121 and 123
  15. for a document quoted by a senator to be laid upon the table under SO 168
  16. for the printing or consideration on another day of a document which has been presented under SO 169
  17. for the extension of time for a senator to speak, in general debate under SO 189(1)
  18. for dissent from a ruling of the President, and that the question of dissent requires immediate determination under SO 198(1)
  19. for the adjournment of a debate under SO 201(1)
  20. for the closure of a debate under SO 199(1)
  21. for the business of the day to be called on, moved during discussion of a matter of public importance under SO 75(8)
  22. for a senator to be suspended from the sitting of the Senate, in case of disorder under SO 203(3)
  23. in cases of urgent necessity, for the suspension of standing or other orders under SO 209(1).

A motion which otherwise requires notice may be moved by leave of the Senate, that is, unanimous consent of all senators present.[5]

When the Senate has directed that a report, for example, a report of the Procedure Committee, be considered on a day, so that there is an order of the day for the consideration of the report, motions may be moved without notice in relation to the report, for example, to adopt or endorse the recommendations of the report.

Notices are statements of intention by senators that they intend to move particular motions on particular days indicated by the notices. Notices are technically not business which is before the Senate.

Notices are entered on the Notice Paper in the order in which they are given. If they are given by a minister they are placed under government business, and if given by a senator who is not a minister under general business. Other categories under which notices of motion may appear are business of the Senate and matters of privilege; special precedence is given to those notices under standing orders 58 and 81.[6]

The opportunity for senators to carry out the intentions stated in their notices and to move the motions of which they have given notice does not arise until the notices are reached in accordance with the rules relating to the conduct of proceedings. As explained in Chapter 8, the Senate usually has more business before it than can be dealt with in a session, and notices of motion, particularly general business notices, will not necessarily be reached in the normal course of proceedings.

The following rules apply to notices of motion:[7]

  • a notice must not contain matters not relevant to each other
  • a notice must consist of a clear and succinct proposed resolution or order of the Senate
  • a notice must deal with matters within the competence of the Senate
  • a notice must not contain statements, quotations or other matter not strictly necessary to make the proposed resolution or order intelligible.

The President is empowered to delete extraneous matter from notices, to divide notices containing different matters, and to require a senator giving a notice which is contrary to the standing orders to reframe the notice.[8]

A senator may give a notice on behalf of another senator who is not present and it is a general practice of the Senate to allow senators to take actions in the course of proceedings on behalf of other senators.[9]

Two or more senators may join together as joint movers of a motion, and their names are placed on the notice.[10]

A senator may give notice of a motion in general terms, provided that, at least one day before the day on which the notice is to be moved, the senator provides a written copy of the complete motion. A senator may, for example, give notice of intention to move on a future day a motion relating to the report of a committee or other body, and may provide before the day for moving the motion the terms of the motion asking the Senate to make particular decisions in relation to the report.[11] This procedure is not often used.

A senator may not give two notices of motion consecutively if another senator has a notice to give.[12] The rationale of this rule is that a senator giving a number of notices could take up a number of places in the queue of business on the Notice Paper, and thereby make it less likely that subsequent notices would be reached. For convenience, however, the chair may allow senators to give notices consecutively, on the basis that they are placed on the Notice Paper in the order in which the senators would normally have received the call.[13]

Because a notice of motion is simply a statement of intention by a senator and not business before the Senate, it is entirely in the control of the senator who gives the notice.[14] Thus a senator may change the terms of a notice before the day on which it is to be moved, may specify a later day for moving the motion, and may withdraw a notice at any time before it is moved or when it is reached in the order of business.[15] It follows that a senator cannot be compelled to move a motion of which the senator has given notice, and if a senator has given notice for a future day the senator cannot be compelled to move the motion earlier; this can come about only by leave.[16] There are precedents for motions, moved pursuant to a suspension of standing orders, to have motions of which notice was given called on and thereby debated and determined early.[17] This was done, however, as an agreed strategy to bring on an early debate; it could not have prevented the senators moving the motions on a later day in accordance with their notices. In 2008 a disallowance motion was brought on early by leave and then withdrawn pursuant to notice of intention under standing order 78.[18]

If a senator does not move a motion when it is called on, it lapses and is removed from the Notice Paper.[19] A senator may postpone a notice at the appropriate time in the routine of business.[20] A notice not reached on the day for which it is given remains on the Notice Paper for the next day of sitting.[21]

The provision in standing order 77(2) for the terms of a notice to be altered by lodgment in writing on any day earlier than the day for proceeding with the motion has been used to alter the day for moving a motion. It cannot be used, however, to change the day for moving a motion to a day earlier than that originally designated. This would defeat the condition in standing order 77(1) that only a later day can be set, and would be objectionable in principle in that it would allow a motion to be brought on earlier without senators being aware, except by looking at the Notice Paper for the day, that the motion is to be moved. On this basis a request by a senator to designate by letter an earlier day for moving a motion is not effective.

An alteration of a notice of motion under standing order 77(2) may be used to divide a notice into two or more notices, provided that the original notice contains a motion which could be divided under standing order 84(3) and the effect of the division is not to give notice of a distinctly new motion. This was done on 28 October 1997, when a government business notice of a motion to exempt a list of bills from the operation of standing order 111(5) was divided to distribute the bills on the list over 3 notices. Similarly, a notification under standing order 77(2) may be used to combine two or more notices into one, provided that they deal with related matters and a new notice is not sought to be introduced by that means. Notices in different categories of business, such as business of the Senate and general business, could not be combined by that means.

Special procedures apply to the withdrawal of notices of motion for the disallowance of delegated legislation. Various statutory provisions provide that, for delegated legislation to be validly disallowed by the Senate, the notice of motion for disallowance must be given within a statutorily-specified period after the legislation is laid before the Senate.[22] If a senator were to give notice of motion for the disallowance of an instrument of delegated legislation and then withdraw the notice after the expiration of the statutory period for giving notice, another senator who wished to move for the disallowance of the delegated legislation could not do so by giving a fresh notice. Standing order 78 therefore provides that a senator who has given notice of a disallowance motion may not withdraw it until an opportunity has been provided for any other senator to take over the notice.[23]

It was ruled in 1982[24] that a senator could not give notice of a motion in the same terms as a notice already on the Notice Paper. This ruling was not correct and has not since been followed. There is nothing in the standing orders to prevent senators giving identical notices of motion. The ruling seems to have been based on an analogy with the anticipation rule (see below), but that rule clearly does not apply to notices. If the ruling were followed a senator could give notice of a motion with no intention of ever moving it, for the purpose of preventing, or attempting to prevent, a matter coming before the Senate.

2. SO 76(10), 79.
3. SO 25(11); see also SO 81 for privilege motions
4. See Chapter 15, Delegated Legislation and Disallowance.
5. SO 88.
6. See also Chapter 8, Conduct of Proceedings, under Special precedence for certain business.
7. SO 76.
8. See Procedure Committee, 4th Report, 63rd Session, PP 463/1989; statement by President Sibraa, SD, 13/11/1991, p. 2999.
9. SO 76(4).
10. SO 76(4).
11. For precedent relating to the summoning of certain witnesses: 12/6/1975, J.809.
12. SO 76(9).
13. SD, 25/11/1980, p. 9.
14. Ruling of President Givens, SD, 1/9/1916, p. 8408.
15. SO 77; but see below in relation to disallowance motions.
16. 28/9/1993, J.515; 30/9/1993, J.550; 25/11/1993, J.889-90.
17. 9/10/1986, J.1273; 28/2/1989, J.1392-3.
18. 15/9/2008, J.833, 16/9/2008, J.848; see Chapter 15, Delegated legislation and disallowance, under Withdrawal of notice of motion.
19. SO 83(2), but see below and Chapter 15, Delegated Legislation, for the special case of a disallowance motion.
20. SO 67.
21. SO 80(2).
22. See Chapter 15, Delegated Legislation.
23. For precedents, see Chapter 15, Delegated legislation and disallowance, under Withdrawal of notice of motion.
24. 21/4/1982, J.853-4.

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